Dispute over Tomatin name ‘could jeopardise £12m development’

The entrepreneur behind a proposed £12 million hotel and restaurant at the Tomatin junction on the A9 has warned that the development could be in jeopardy over a “squabble” with a local distillery over the place name.

William Frame of The Tomatin Trading Company said he is fighting back to make his point to the Tomatin Distillery that they cannot claim sole right to the Tomatin name.

He has urged the distillery’s management to work together to bring jobs and investment to the area.

William, who plans to create a 99-bedroom hotel and 200-seater restaurant at the site, said he was extremely disappointed to receive an objection from the Tomatin Distillery over his plans to call the proposed development, The Tomatin Trading Company.

Exception has been taken to them selling Tomatin Jam or referring to Tomatin Café on staff aprons, he added.

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,” it 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 local area, also includes four retail units, a fuel filling station and farm shop. The site at Tomatin, which previously housed a hotel, and latterly a café & filling station, had lain unused over 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 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 William 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.”

William added: “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.

“As it seems extremely anti free enterprise, and counter-productive, I have sought opinion through various networks. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. No company can exclusively own the rights to a geographical place name.”

William 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.”

“If this development was in Aviemore or Inverness I don’t think there would be a problem naming the trading company after the town,” added William.

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 William.

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

“There are 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.

William added: “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.”

Stephen Bremner, managing director of Tomatin Distillery, told Scottish Construction Now: “As engaged members of our local community, we wholeheartedly welcome and support this or any development that is going to benefit the area.

“We do, however, object to the development’s proposed branding, which, we believe, takes unfair advantage of our reputation and we have repeatedly asked Mr Frame to reconsider.

“Tomatin Distillery has a rich heritage spanning many generations. We firmly believe we must protect our valuable brand, which is inherently associated with our distillery and our whisky as a result of over 120 years of dedicated craftsmanship.”

Tags: Highlands

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