An Bord Pleanala has approved planning permission for an international trade and commerce centre on a 337 acre site in Athlone.

The centre will cost €175m to build and will promote trade and business between China, Europe and the US.

An estimated 1,500 jobs are expected to be created as part of the project, as well as 1,200 positions during the construction phase.

A statement from the project backers pointed out that the majority of the jobs will be for Irish and EU nationals.

The centre will contain exhibition halls, living quarters, hotels, shops, restaurants, pubs, a school and train station. Its backers claim there is potential for 9,000 jobs if the master plan for the centre is fully developed.

The centre is expected to attract 1.5 million international buyers and visitors annually when completed.

The International Trade and Commerce Centre will provide showcase and demonstration space for Chinese manufacturers and traders to display their products to European and other international buyers, with a view to generating bulk orders, which will then be delivered from the producers in China.

There will be a dedicated cultural space for showcasing Chinese heritage and culture.

The overall master plan for the entire 337-acre site will provide for up to 3,000 companies to display their wares in the nine exhibition halls and other facilities.

If successful, the centre will bring European and US trade buyers and business people to Athlone, instead of the current need for expensive and time consuming travel to and within China for such purchasing and trading activity, the statement added.