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Fight goes to court

Distillery threatens to sink £12m hotel plan in brand dispute

Planned hotel will bring jobs to the area

A £12 million Highlands venture is under threat because of a dispute over its name.

Entrepreneur William Frame wants to build a 99 room hotel and 200 seater restaurant at the Tomatin junction on the A9.

But the Tomatin Distillery has objected to plans to sell Tomatin Jam or referring to Tomatin Café on staff aprons and has taken legal action. 

Tomatin Distillery Managing Director, Stephen Bremner has since said that while the Distillery  “wholeheartedly welcomes and supports this or any development that is going to benefit the area,” the distillery objects to the proposed branding which it believes “takes unfair advantage of our reputation.”

The development, which is set to bring more than 50 permanent jobs to the area between Aviemore and Inverness, tincludes a number of retail units. The site at Tomatin, which previously housed a hotel, and latterly a café & filling station, has been unused for more than a decade.

With full planning having been achieved, Mr Frame was planning a Spring start to construction work on site, and was in the midst of seeking additional business investment when the bombshell struck from the century old, Japanese-owned Tomatin Distillery.

“It is a huge disappointment to say the least, to find that this issue has now been taken to Scotland’s supreme civil court, the Court of Session,” said Mer Frame, who runs Braemore Estates in Crieff.

“We have kept the distillery fully informed of our plans from the very start, and had planned to have their whiskies as a showcase in our retail shop and bar.”

“I feel this should wholeheartedly be about helping and promoting the local community, promoting the village of Tomatin, giving young people jobs that are sustainable and getting young people back into the Highlands.

“There is no attempt or intention to associate ourselves with the Distillery, and no-one I have spoken to considers that there would be any confusion about this.

“No Company can exclusively own the rights to a geographical place name.”

Mr Frame explained that he had already invested heavily in his brand’s distinct identity, not foreseeing any issue with referencing the location of the development.

“Numerous businesses in the past here have referenced the name Tomatin, such as the Tomatin Petrol Filling Station, and The Tomatin Little Chef,” he said, “Indeed, the Tomatin Estate itself was there long before the Distillery was established, and originally sold them the ground.

“There was also the Tomatin Railway Station which closed in the 1960s, but the local people in the area are now trying to get it reopened. I do wonder if the Distillery would challenge its name? I very much doubt it.”

The development received no public objections during last year’s planning process.

“The local community council backed the development 100%, and, of course the name simply reflects the location,” said Mr Frame.

Local Highland councillor Duncan Macpherson is in favour of the development, and does not wish to see it jeopardised.

“There’s so many jobs riding on this £12m development, at least one hundred in the first construction phase, and then permanent jobs afterwards. The mix of both full-time and part-time jobs is ideal for local people, and would make a huge difference to the local Strathdearn and Tomatin economy,” he said.

“We can only hope that the Distillery re-assess the public mood and talks to us constructively to come up with a solution which enables us to continue to use the name The Tomatin Trading Company,” finished William Frame.

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