Cllr Alan Shaw (FG) attended a special meeting in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel on last Thursday evening to receive a presentation of the Euro China Trade Hub (ECTH) as it is envisaged to be.
Cllr Shaw was awe struck by the size and scale of the project which was described in detail by the local promoters. The Trade Hub is a forum for international buyers to primarily enter contracts for the purchase of Chinese manufactured product. Planning permission is now being sought by the promoters for phase 1 of the development, covering approximately 32 hectares of the 137 hectare site.
It was clear from the presentation, that the promoters are determined to make the project a reality, however they are taking nothing for granted. The team working on the project have adopted a professional approach and it is now the case that the ECTH cannot progress without planning permission, albeit on a phased basis.
Once up and running, the thousands of jobs created, the majority of which will be Irish, are high end jobs that will be clean to the environment, as there are no pollutants arising from the business undertaken at the Trade Hub. The focus on clean energy at the proposed Trade Hub is particularly welcome. The use of wind and solar energy generation will provide the majority of power needed and this is of critical importance for the environment and is also a major concern to the Chinese, I understand.
“As a public representative I am fully supportive of this project”, Cllr Shaw stated. Cllr Shaw queried a number of issues at the meeting to determine the scale of the project as well as the consideration being given for the local area and its environs.
- Phase 1 is expected to require an investment of €175M and 1,200 local jobs created during the construction phase.
- 1,500 full time jobs will be created in phase 1 after the construction phase is completed.
- A new train station is envisaged off the main Athlone – Dublin route and this will be built on completion of the project. A shuttle bus service with the town centre will also provide connectivity between the town centre and the trade hub.
- A 10 year timescale is envisaged to bring the project to full completion depending on international trade forces.
- The tourism potential from the project cannot be overstated. Opportunities will arise to develop new attractions for the 30,000 weekly business visitors as well as dramatically increasing demand for existing tourist attractions in Athlone and the wider environs.
- The injection of people and wealth to the local economy is likely to have a direct impact on demand for housing, accommodation and goods and services.
There is also the need to ensure that local interests are given careful consideration from many different perspectives before embarking on a project like this. I am confident that the Planning process will ensure that all affected parties will be heard and any issues taken on board to make the plan as inclusive and accommodating as possible.