Meteor Responds to Growing Local Concern

The key man in charge of redeveloping Taymouth Castle has assured Comment his massive tourist project is not in trouble – despite widespread local concern about layoffs and bills not being paid promptly.
Martin Mortimer (pictured), of Meteor Asset Management, acknowledges ‘there have been issues’ with paying some subcontractors, but says they are ‘being addressed’.
He also says an international company is now in advanced talks to finalise the contract to run the castle as a luxury hotel complex.
Last summer he told Comment a deal with an operator would be in place before Christmas with the hotel opening in summer 2014. He now admits the timescale has slipped, but he is confident many of the final details will be settled at meetings scheduled in London as Comment went to press.

Fully Committed
The issue of whether 31 suites in the castle will open in advance of construction of a new north wing that would add a further 50 suites is one of the matters under discussion.
“As I have advised you, well in excess of £20m has been invested in the Castle and Estate to date,” Martin Mortimer said in a statement, “and we remain fully committed to the project, and to further investment going forward with the development.
“We also fully understand the project’s importance in the context of the local community and Perthshire, and we are confident that the progress achieved in 2013 will continue in 2014.”
He was responding to queries from Comment that a number of traders hired on the development were struggling to get paid, with speculation that as much as £1m was outstanding. It had been suggested that some traders were refusing to supply any more goods or services, and that others had threatened to remove materials they had supplied.

No Disagreements
Comment pointed out that their ‘beef’ appeared to be with Farnham Developments, the firm chosen by Meteor to carry out the Taymouth development work, and local people were saying this was reminiscent of what happened when the previous scheme foundered.
Two of the key people in that project - Clynt Wellington and John French - are behind Farnham Developments.
Martin Mortimer has now told Comment: “With regard to matters in relation to Farnham Developments, we are aware of the fact that there have been issues with a number of their subcontractors and this situation is currently being addressed. The numbers referred to in your note are completely inaccurate and have no substance and there is no disagreement between Farnham Developments and ourselves.”
Asked directly if he was able to confirm that all bona fide outstanding bills from local contractors will be paid in very near future, he replied: “To the best of our knowledge, the answer is yes, and arrangements are in hand for the contractor to deal with this matter as, obviously, the various sub contracts are with them, not us.”

Positive Outlook
Martin Mortimer continued: “We remain on course in terms of securing a hotel operator and are in advanced negotiations with a world class hotel group that will meet the aspirations that we have for the quality of the hotel and leisure offer at Taymouth.
“As I have explained this involves a significant amount of detail in terms of the specification that they require, both in the existing castle hotel accommodation (which is already completed to ‘shell specification’) and the approved new build hotel element. As a result we have obviously not been able to announce the operator as yet, or indeed proceed with further construction on the hotel until these legal agreements have been concluded.
“We will keep you informed on this and the outlook is extremely positive. As you know we had hoped to be able to make these announcements at the end of last year but this process, as stated, is very complex.”
“I trust that this assists in providing some clarity. As you well know it is very easy for inaccurate or misleading information to be stated in the press and elsewhere that can be very damaging and we very much hope that this will not occur in this instance as we have tried to keep you fully informed as to where we are.”
Martin Mortimer gave Comment an extensive tour of the estate last summer and, as reported in Comment last September, the works carried out are of exceptional standard. Most of the principal rooms on the first floor of the castle have been carefully restored including the Chinese Gallery, which is decorated with silk wall hangings identical to those of 150 years ago.
The Library, Banner Hall and Baron’s Hall have been elaborately decorated and restored by specialists in Victorian gothic style, with rich carvings, gilded ceilings, and ornate panelling and plasterwork.
In the autumn however, work slowed and large numbers of workers were laid off. According to Meteor this was because of the weather, and work being completed pending the hotel operator specifying their requirements.

Further Meteor Statement
Clynt Wellington and John French, who are second cousins, were key investors and promoters of the original redevelopment scheme, which then went into administration. In an effort to clarify their current role, Meteor’s PR company issued this statement:
“John French and Clynt Wellington are retained by Meteor Property Fund to work on the Taymouth Castle Estate project as Development Consultants. They have an excellent track record of sensitive heritage property regeneration and development as well as an extensive knowledge of Taymouth Castle Estate; the latter gained through their involvement in the previous development proposals.
“Clynt and John are members of a large team of project consultants working on Taymouth Castle Estate, which are all paid fees for their services. Neither has any direct financial stake in the Estate nor are they investors in the Property Fund.
“Clynt Wellington is a Director of Farnham Developments Limited (FDL), the lead building contractor working on the Taymouth Castle Estate project. FDL was selected for this role through a standard cost reporting procedure.
“Due to the diverse nature of the project - which includes restoration of listed buildings, repair and installation of roads, infrastructure & utilities, golf course remodelling works and the construction of residential & leisure units - competitive quotes are always obtained from qualified specialist sub-contractors for each individual area of work. These sub-contractors are co-ordinated by FDL.”


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