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Hub still has many hurdles to clear

The promoters of a huge Chinese trading "hub" outside Athlone are likely to find that yesterday's decision by An Bord Pleanala to grant planning permission is the least of the obstacles which the proposed scheme will have to clear before it opens its doors for business.

It is difficult to exaggerate the size of the proposed scheme, 102,000 square metres or more than 1.1 million square feet. The promoters hope that the hub will serve as a shop window for Chinese manufacturers wishing to sell their goods into Europe and the eastern US with would-be buyers having to travel to Athlone rather than China in order to view the merchandise on offer and place their orders.

The idea is potentially a good one. Unfortunately, others are thinking along similar lines with a comparable development being proposed in the Wirral peninsula outside Liverpool.

Nor would it be much of a surprise if a Chinese hub were to be constructed somewhere in the Benelux countries close to Rotterdam, Europe's largest container port, and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, with its wide range of international flight connections, far greater than anything Dublin Airport has to offer.

These potential handicaps notwithstanding, the promoters of the scheme are to be congratulated on their enterprise and we wish them every success in their venture. In our current predicament, we need all the good news we can get.