London: Land of the Rising Sun (Part 2)

One of our friends works at a major commercial art gallery in London. Like half of his colleagues, his long term ambition is to open his own gallery. A Lewisham native, we asked him whether he'd consider South East London. We weren't naive enough to think Brockley would be a goer, but Dulwich? Greenwich? Blackheath? Deptford?

"Nope. No-one will come to South East London. I could open a place in the grottiest part of Hackney or Tower Hamlets and have a chance of building a successful business. But the art-buying community won't go east of Bermondsey, south of the river. It's too cut off."

For the art world, you could substitute pretty much any other sector or industry. The nature of Brockley Central's job means that we work with virtually every type of organisation you could think of. Big companies, small ones, charities, government departments, quangoes, consultancies. Last week our diary took us to a design company in Camden, a hotel in Mayfair, a client in Chiswick and a media briefing in Kings Cross. In three and a half years of doing this job we have never been anywhere further south east than "More London Bridge" for work.

A city is the sum of its connections - the daily interactions of millions of people. Those interactions are the reason that businesses and communities cluster in certain locations. In our view, the low level of economic activity in South East London is in direct proportion to its limited connections. In part one, we wrote about the East London's economic ascendancy. But without better links, jobs and investment will remain north of the river.

The reopened East London Line and the DLR tunnel at Woolwich will undoubtedly help matters, but there are four other river crossings that are currently on the table: a pedestrian and cycle bridge to Canary Wharf from Rotherhithe, a crossing to Silvertown at Blackwall, the Thames Gateway bridge and a cable car at the Dome. All are needed. Except the cable car, but that would just be cool.

Traffic management experts make the point that if you build new capacity, it just fills up, creating more traffic. That's a key part of the argument against letting the needs of cars shape our city and one that we generally endorse. But South East London needs more cross-river journeys. It needs more business people jumping in taxis to get across the Thames. It needs more tourists strolling or catching a bus across the river from the north bank. It needs to be part of the same city as north east London. The fact that one of the key crossings is a ferry only strengthens the feeling that the two places are foreign countries to one another.

Our Green councillors oppose the Gateway Bridge but we think they're wrong. They wouldn't knock down any of the 31 London bridges west of Tower Bridge, so why do they think that one in Dartford is enough on the east side?

A few days ago, Mayor Boris announced that 50 infrastructure projects would be central to London's economic recovery plan. The details of the plan are due to be published before Christmas. He's already effectively mothballed the cross-river tram scheme that would have served Southwark but we hope that, when the list is unveiled, it includes a few more threads to stitch north and south together.

It's time to build bridges with our friends in the north.