MORE than 100 jobs will be created if an upmarket hotel, restaurant and shopping complex on the southern gateway to Inverness gets the go-ahead.
Plans have been submitted for a £10 million project beside the A9 at Tomatin.
The long-held ambition of the Tomatin Trading Company would mean about 40 construction jobs and 70-plus long-term hotel and retail jobs would be created. It is likely many of the workers will commute from Inverness.
Perthshire-based property developer William Frame, the company’s managing director, aims to breathe life into a long derelict site near the A9 junction.
Business leaders are confident the creation of a 97-bedroom hotel – up from previous plans for 42 – a farm shop, 200-seat restaurant, "drive-through bakery", retail outlets and filling station would prove a huge boost to the local economy.
The company hopes to have it open by autumn next year.
The 3.5-acre brownfield site currently has detailed mixed-use consent for hotel, restaurant and retail use which was granted in 2007.
Things were delayed by a combination of complex planning conditions, the banking crisis and awaited confirmation of a new road layout for the imminent dualling of the local stretch of A9.
The site was previously occupied by the 1895-built Freeburn Hotel and reputed to have been a stopping-off point for Bonnie Prince Charlie. It ceased trading in the 1960s and a Little Chef restaurant that replaced it was demolished in 2008.
Mr Frame is thrilled about the opportunity to bring national retailers to the area, operating seven days a week with anticipated daily restaurant hours of 7am-10pm. The emphasis will be on local produce.
"It’s an exciting new chapter for the site," he said.
"For the Tomatin area, it’s going to be full and part-time jobs on the doorstep for young and not-so-young alike.
"There’s high demand for quality, affordable hotel rooms within easy reach of both Aviemore and Inverness as well as the many attractions of the area from the North Coast 500, Loch Ness and the Cairngorms National Park through to many of Scotland’s renowned distilleries."
He said the development would showcase the region’s best produce.
Comparisons are already being drawn between the Tomatin project and the lucrative House of Bruar near Blair Atholl.
Mr Frame said there was no intention of copying it and that the Tomatin project would be distinctive, not least because of its accommodation element.
Welcoming the proposals, Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol said: "It’s a fantastic development.
"I’d be keen to see it developed to the fullest extent because this would be a very significant addition to the area.
"It looks similar to Bruar, which is probably quite deliberate. To have something of this scale of retail experience and significant hotel just minutes from Inverness would be a great addition to the hospitality sector.
"It has the potential of becoming a major tourism destination in its own right, which has to be good for the economy."