Dozens of local jobs are set to be created after a £10m plan to build an upmarket hotel and shopping complex next to the A9 was revived.
Braemore Estates has brought its Juniper Village plan back to the table after the recession earlier scuppered the proposals for the site near Tomatin.
Exact plans for the development still hinge on the route picked as part of the A9 dualling project.
But it is hoped that the scheme – to include a hotel, fish and chip restaurant and shops – will open within three years and draw trade from tourists using the main route north, as well as local residents.
Yesterday community leaders and local politicians welcomed news that the plans were being resurrected.
Braemore Estates previously won consent for a similar project in 2008 but the plans were put on hold amid the downturn.
Owner William Frame says he is now in talks to find a hotel operator to anchor the development.
He said: “We are actively looking for operators or potential partners. We are speaking to some hoteliers at the moment and are looking at trying to make this a big operation. We would anchor the development around a hotel with a roadside cafe or restaurant and shops, with the emphasis on quality.
Transport Scotland is not expected to reveal designs for the section between the village and Moy until next year.
Mr Frame said: “We are very much at the behest of Transport Scotland and are just trying to prepare for whatever the outcome is. We don’t know the route that the dual carriageway will take and how it will affect the site but when the time comes we will work with them. In the interim we are being positive and optimistic about what the potential outcome could be.
Mr Frame is considering opening a drive-through branch of his award-winning fish and chip restaurant, Cromars, based in St Andrews in Fife.
It is anticipated that shops on the site will stock Scottish produce, with space also provided for local artists, silversmiths, sculptors and textile manufacturers.
The plans won “cautious” support from the local community council yesterday.
Vivian Roden, chairwoman of Strathdearn Community Council, said: “A community feasibility study is underway at the moment about getting some of the old facilities back at Tomatin. We will need to see more details about what is involved in the development and how it fits in with the community’s plans.”
But Councillor Thomas Prag, Inverness South, said: “It is a very important development for that area because it would provide jobs for people so they don’t have to come into Inverness. It is also a potentially important development for Inverness too because it is maybe a good roadside stop and there are not many others around.
“The question is how much of the land owned by Braemore Estate might be needed for a grade separated junction. My guess is that they are reintroducing the idea because that might influence the design of the junction.”
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: “I am hugely impressed by the scale of the proposed development and it will come as a real boost to the region and I think the financial investment with jobs and the offering in terms of the tourism sector is very important for Inverness.
“Obviously tying into the A9 dualling, which has a medium term plan, it adds a dynamic to the road. The distillery is there too which is a local tourism attraction. I think it is a very impressive set of proposals and we will welcome this development.”