News that two major planning applications for retail projects in Athlone are being pursued represents a significant vote of confidence in the region.
At a time when the midlands is fast becoming an unemployment blackspot, any prospect of the creation of jobs must be warmly welcomed.
And a time when retail confidence is at an all-time low and consumer spend is on its knees, it's interesting to note that there are still people in this region willing to put their money where their mouth is and pursue development opportunities.
The major proposal by a company associated with the Diskin group in Athlone to develop a mixed-use development of a scale slightly larger than the overall Golden Island Shopping Centre project is noteworthy for its ambition.
If it comes to pass it will create hundreds of jobs and provide an option for local people other than the dole queues or emigration.
The Gallico Development proposal is of a smaller scale, but is still a significant development in its own right.
It too would create employment and help to inject a bit of life back into the town centre of Athlone which is currently pockmarked by business closures and vacant premises.
Along with the massive Europe China Trade Hub project, these proposals provide significant prospects for job creation and investment in the town, which should be welcomed.
The planners and experts must now consider whether the projects fit into local, regional and national planning and retail goals as well as rule on the suitability of all three projects for planning permission.
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