Adam Harrison: Camden’s Chris Grayling?

A great deal of the woes of living in Camden can be traced directly to Adam Harrison. Is he not the local equivalent of Chris Grayling?

In matters of national government, Chris Grayling MP has become something of a laughing stock. His name has rightly become synonymous with gross incompetence, perhaps most aptly exemplified by his awarding of a contract to a ferry firm with no ferries. Some say that his sparkling record has made him a prime candidate for Camden’s next chief executive.

But Camden already has its own Chris Grayling. A great deal of the most self-defeating or downright ridiculous projects and ideas implemented by Camden Council can be traced directly to one man: Adam Harrison. Is he not our equivalent of Chris Grayling?

Cllr Harrison is most well known for his excessive zeal for any sort of project that involves placing bollards in the middle of a road or otherwise taking up pavement slabs and replacing them with more paving slabs. This has been most aptly exemplified by the great deal of schemes implemented throughout the borough this year creating cycle lanes with no cyclists.

One only has to look a little further afield to see a pattern of very silly decision making and a propensity to throw millions of public funds on completely useless projects. The so-called West End Project is such an example. Sadiq Khan designated Tottenham Court Road as a place ripe for ‘social and economic’ regeneration, with residents of Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia arguing that Tottenham Court Road was a ‘great street’ that needed to be treated as such. In response to this brief, about £30M has been squandered on simply replacing the paving slabs with granite and changing the one way traffic system to two way.

In one of the world’s most important cities the ‘Harrison Formula’ has shown world leaders how to achieve real social and economic regeneration where it is needed most. From the slums of Nairobi to the favelas of Rio millions are now being spent on changing one way systems to two way and putting granite slabs onto the streets.

Two hundred years ago, the authorities in London worked with the Crown and prominent architect John Nash to set out the Regent’s Park as part of a movement towards ‘metropolitan improvement’, creating a genuinely world-renowned open space, vital for the life of the city.

Recently Camden put history to shame by opening the world-famous Fitzrovia Parklet, snipping the red tape with a pair of office scissors to a crowd of zero.

It will surely last for centuries to come and will inspire future generations with lofty ideals of beauty and urban regeneration. And that’s before the concrete paving slabs have been replaced with granite. Just wait until the street becomes two way and a cycle lane is put down.

Enough of the urban improvement schemes. By far the worst aspect of this man’s tenure is the genuinely famous filth of Camden’s streets. From Fortune Green to Seven Dials there lie hundreds of piles of bin bags. Piles of complaints are made to the man responsible for the London Borough of Filth but he either ignores them or attacks residents for apparently ‘lying’ and ‘exaggerating’ the situation.

And only today a motion calling for the long awaited review of Veolia’s performance – a contractor which has so far failed to meet its expectations on every single assessmenthas been blocked by Cllr Harrison, he instead congratulating Veolia for their performance and saying that the ‘system is working well overall’.

There’s not much more that can indicate wilful ignorance than that.

One will also have noticed the number of ‘Dockless Bicycle Hire’ docks placed around Camden in recent months. Whose idea was it to create docks for dockless bicycles? And who could have not foreseen that these docks would simply be ignored?

Or the quite incredible stories of noise nuisances taking years to be resolved and Camden being ordered to pay compensation for their gross incompetence? Yet again, the responsibility of Cllr Harrison.

The list goes on. One can only wonder why Camden’s cabinet allows this man to continue in his role when he does nought but bring shame and embarrassment upon the council. Personally I am more and more convinced that it is a part of the cabinet’s strategy to actually appear ignorant and incompetent to reinforce a belief that they are politically untouchable – after all, is that not how government works all around the world?

5 thoughts on “Adam Harrison: Camden’s Chris Grayling?

  1. Owen,

    Hi. I am a newish subscriber here and I do enjoy reading about your observations. When I first moved to Bedford Court Mansions I was eager to reach out to our three Councillors, Harrison, Madlani and that woman. Sadly, it became clear to me that individually and as a group these people would not act as a force for good for tax payers and residents. Ignoring quite reasonable emails was I learnt to be the norm. A reply would come from time to time saying things would be looked into etc. Over a period of many years I can count not one occasion where these three did something good.

    And here’s the problem. There exists no oversight inside Camden. So when officers in Planning or Enviroment do what seems to be “the wrong thing” there is no mechanism, or will, to change that. The same is true for the elected councillors. A quick analysis by me shows these councillors and many more at Camden have some of the safest seats in the country. The point being we cannot effect change at the ballot box.

    Stephen Heath works tirelessly via the BA to point out the many transgressions made by developers around here, Camden’s planners just look the other way. Taking an interest would involve time and effort. Does Gary Bakall actually do anything? I’ve seen copies of blatant evidence that needs enforcement. Camden just do nothing and there is nought to change this culture. I myself tried to engage with the ceo point out that ice cream vans sitting outside landmarks might be good for parents to buy their kids overpriced ice cream but do spare a thought about the NOx pouring out of the tail pipe. All day. She never replied. I copied in K Starmer. He said she was doing a great job as ceo. So there you are.

    I got so wound up and frustrated by them all I simply gave up. So now when I see a VEOLIA truck reversing down Bedford Ave at great speed to collect the rubbish (this avoiding the correct route which will take an extra few minutes) I just look the other way. There is a school here and other stakeholders.

    I wish you well in your campaign. You are clearly motivated to show how bad Camden is run but I don’t know how you will get that changed.

    Chris Gardiner.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi,

      Interesting observations, and I don’t really know what can be done to fix things. All I am sure of is that it is useful to talk about these things in the open because I’m convinced most of these people (councillors, planners, officers) genuinely don’t recognise that their actions or negligence really matter to a lot of people. My experience of Camden is just one of laziness, apathy, cynicism… a culture and work ethic of doing as little as possible in any situation. It’s as though ignoring emails and doing nothing is part of the job role – something that needs to be done to be accepted. This isn’t just something unique to Camden, or even local authorities in general… I have observed the same, if not worse, situation in all public services, especially the NHS.

      All is not lost however. I have been lucky enough to meet with Camden officers who really care about what they’re doing and put their all into their job. But they frequently report being surrounded by absolute imbeciles who try their best to do as little as possible and quash their own efforts to get things done. So just like your own experience, motivation to make change eventually just dissipates against this huge body of people who all want to do nothing.

      My main idea is to encourage residents to engage directly with the good officers, and to encourage more officers to behave in a positive way. The councillors are simply a lost cause – and officers also report councillors as being entirely detached from the work they are doing anyway (especially Adam Harrison).


  2. Although I agree whole-heartedly with most of the points raised in the article, I feel that the return to two-way traffic in Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street is a good thing. The trend to turn central London streets into one-way flow systems is something that only started in, I think, the late 50s and carried on through the 60s. All roads that became one way systems effectively turned into urban motorways and, I would argue, decreased drivers’ sensitivity to traffic in general. These major one-way systems also tended (in my opinion) to attract even more rubbish (see motorway verges in general) than the normal. I’m not a great fan of the way the Tottenham Court Road/Gower Street systems have been dealt with, but I know as a pedestrian I greatly prefer two-way streets to what we have lived with for years. Piccadilly has much improved as a street since it reverted to two-way traffic. It’s about scale, and detail, and perhaps it’s about age too — those of us who can remember when a lot of the streets mentioned were two=way might be more likely to approve, and find it easier to live in a city which is rather more like our memories of what London was like several years ago.

    Having said which, can I pose the most important question: how to get something decent back into the running of Camden Council. In my own lifetime I have seen Camden move from being one of the most enlightened and progressive councils in the country (1960s/70s) to one of the most inefficient, destructive, undemocratic and unresponsive councils around. I’m happy to complain with the next man — but what can we actually do about changing it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Isn’t Harrison one of the men behind “Pedal Me’ app.
    Instead of delivering goods by van you order a cyclist to deliver it on a cargo bike.


  4. So now we know the identity of the moron who treats public money as if it were water and throw it around all over the place without a concern for the people of Camden who sit and watch their hard earnt money being squandered away by someone who still wears his school trousers to work 😡😡

    Liked by 1 person

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