#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 5°C Monday 6 December 2021

An Bord Pleanála gives go-ahead for Chinese trading hub in Athlone

Phase-one of a five stage project has been given the go-ahead with a trading hub that would span across one million square metres eventually set to be constructed.

An artist's impression of the China Europe Trading Hub proposed for Athlone.
An artist's impression of the China Europe Trading Hub proposed for Athlone.

AN BORD PLEANÁLA has given the go-ahead for the first phase of an international trading hub to be built in Athlone, Co Westmeath.

The development will be constructed on a 137-hectare site at the Creggan, east of Athlone and will cost around €175 million for the first phase.

The grandiose development even anticipates there will be an ‘Athlone International Airport’ that will completed “at the end of 2018″ and will be a 20 minute drive away from the Europe China Trading Hub (ECTH).

This morning, the planning board has given the go-ahead for the first of a five intended stages which will be financed by private equity, and pre-sales of concessions spaces according to the developers.

It rejected half-a-dozen appeals including one from An Taisce which warned that a similar Chinese trading hub was being built on the Wirral peninsula opposite Liverpool in the UK.

The ECTH intends to provide a demonstration space for Chinese manufacturers and traders to sell their goods to European and international buyers with a view to generating bulk orders.

The development will span across 1,000,000 square metres and some of the facilities that are intended to be constructed during phase one of the project include:

  • A four-storey reception hall
  • A multi-purpose exhibition hall known as the China hall
  • Two ‘mega’ exhibition halls
  • Nine trading halls
  • An external exhibition space
  • A glass covered walkway connecting entrance hall to ‘mega’ exhibition halls.
  • Underground multi-purpose transport facility which will hold parking for over 1,300 cars
  • An energy centre and wind turbine

It is estimated that 1,500 jobs could be created as part of the project as well as 1,200 during the post construction phase. It is envisaged that as many as 9,000 jobs could be created through further developments of the remaining four stages.

The Europe China Trading Hub as envisaged by the project’s developers according to its official website.

As well a the trading hub the website for the ECTH (you have to click through to see the artist’s impression of what it will look like) says there there will eventually be culture and leisure facilities that will include:

  • A five-star hotel resort
  • Apartments
  • A theatre
  • A shopping centre
  • A sports and fitness centre
  • A convention centre
  • A hospital
  • A school
  • A bank
  • A petrol station
  • A train station

The website also states that Athlone International Airport will be completed at the end of 2018 though it is not clear if this is part of the development or a separate enterprise.

The project is the brainchild of the Athlone Business Park Ltd which is owned by two local developers Aidan Kelly and Michael O’Sullivan. A former Roscommon county manager John Tiernan is acting as chief executive.

Last December local Fianna Fáil councillor Frankie Keena told TheJournal.ie that the development was a positive one for transport links in Ireland.

He said: “The Chinese’s target market would consist of business people on the east coast of America and European people as well. Up to about 3,000 people a week would be coming into Ireland so it’ll be positive for the airports as well.

“Athlone is ideally located for this project, it’s in the centre of country. With a new motorway you’d make Dublin Airport in an hour-and-a-half easy – easily to Shannon airport as well. It’s something we badly need to give us a stimulus.”

An Taisce declined to comment on the decision by An Bord Pleanála this morning but said it would be releasing a statement later today.

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

Read next: