Saturday 20 January 2018

Planning decision on €1.4bn Chinese-backed trade project in May

Eoghan MacConnell

A final Bord Pleanala decision on a massive €1.4bn international trade hub for the midlands will be made in May.

If given the go-ahead the Europe China Trading Hub in Athlone, Co Westmeath would serve as an exhibition centre where buyers from Europe and the US could source Chinese products.

Westmeath County Council has already granted permission for phase one of the Chinese-backed development on a 78-acre site at Creggan on the east side of Athlone.

Final public submissions on the project were accepted by An Bord Pleanala yesterday.

Planners say the development could attract 1.5 million visitors a year.

If completed, the trade hub will become the largest source of Chinese goods to be found anywhere in Europe, housing 3,000 demonstration halls and employing 9,000.

An estimated 1,500 will be employed in the €175 million first phase of the five-phase development.

The total project will cost €1.4 billion and cover 337 acres.

A number of objections have been lodged with An Bord Pleanala over the proposed hub.

One was lodged by a couple whose youngest son is undergoing treatment, having been diagnosed with Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2010.

Dermot and Mary Murray expressed concern over the potential health implications from any construction-related pollution.

The planned development would be located directly to the west of their property.

They say their son has been responding well to treatment, and they believe this is in part, due to the quite rural atmosphere in Clonbonny.

Included in their submission is a letter from their son's consultant confirming his condition and warning that: "Dylan cannot be exposed to any work pollutants."

Another objection relates by to the potential traffic and noise disruption arising from the construction of the project.

Sarah Casserly from Creggan Upper welcomed the prospect of jobs but stated: "I am the nearest residential property to the development and will suffer most during the construction phase."

Catherine and Conor McCormack from Clonbonny had concerns with a number of aspects of the planned developments. They feel the project could affect their house price, ruin their view and destroy the nature of the area.

"We feel that the scale of this project is completely out of character with the area and will completely destroy the nature of the area," they stated.

Other submissions were made by Gaeilge Atha Luain and local car dealership owner Michael Moore.

Irish Independent

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