An Bord Pleanála has stated this week that the so-called Chinatown development is in the "highest category of priority" amid fears that a decision may be delayed by an ongoing backlog in dealing with applications at the board.
A verdict is due on the first phase of the massive international trade hub planned for Creggan by May 2 next, however, a number of recent applications have been held up because of a shortage of board members to judge cases, leading to concerns in Athlone that the Chinatown project will be stalled further.
"This is a priority case. At the moment, it is too early to say that the target will be breached," a spokesperson from An Bord Pleanála said this week. "The board is doing the best it can to progress the application as soon as possible."
At present, there are just four board members dealing with applications, a situation which has led to delays with decisions on appealed projects nationwide, An Bord Pleanála confirmed but they are hopeful that the appointment of new members will improve the situation.
"It (the shortage) has had an impact on the overall performance of the board, but that being said, this is a high priority case," the spokesperson stated.
And, while the Department of the Environment confirmed that Minister Phil Hogan appointed four new members to the board of An Bord Pleanála at the end of March, they will not take up their positions until May, leading to speculation that there will be a considerable queue of applications awaiting decision when they begin work.
Athlone Business Park Ltd received the go ahead for phase one of the massive project from Westmeath County Council on December 2. In a bid to overturn the approval it was later appealed to An Bord Pleanála by six different parties in separate submissions. The Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was also invited to make a submission on the proposals.
The first phase of the Europe China Trade Centre is estimated to cost in the region of €175m and is the first element of a €1.4bn overall masterplan, which could create up to 9,000 jobs and attract up to 30,000 visitors per week to the town.
The hub will allow Chinese businesses to showcase their goods in order to sell on to the European Union and US markets.
The first phase of the project includes two 'mega' exhibition halls, with each two-storey hall containing space for 270 display areas. Each of these halls spans over 30,000 square metres.
There will be another major multi-purpose hall for visiting exhibitions with space for 135 separate display areas. Another nine smaller one-storey exhibitions halls are also proposed for phase one, totalling 22,000 square metres.
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|Date:||Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 12:34:52 PM|