Peter Pan's house saved from bulldozers

THE house that inspired Peter Pan has been saved from demolition after campaigners backed by actress Joanna Lumley bought the building.

Moat Brae House in Dumfries, where author J M Barrie played as a child, was to be largely bulldozed and turned into sheltered housing.

But a campaign group has now bought the building for 1, although it is understood that it will have to pay former owners Loreburn Housing Association 75,000 over three years in addition to the sale price.

And the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust faces having to raise more than 2 million to restore the dilapidated property.

Lumley, who recently led a successful campaign to ensure Gurkha veteran soldiers and their families are allowed to settle in the UK, has a house nearby.

In a letter to the trust, she said: "To have such a strong literary link with the greatest fairy story of all time is thrilling.

"I'm delighted that the efforts to save this beautiful little house for Dumfries' sake have been successful."

Referring to campaigners, she added: "They have my wholehearted support."

Trust chairman Roger Windsor said Lumley gave her backing at a recent event in Dumfries.

He said: "She offered to voice a campaign video for us.

"It was Peter Pan who said 'Dreams do come true, if we only wish hard enough'.

"The wishing and the hard work by a dedicated team has set us on the road.

"Work has already commenced to reestablish Neverland on the banks of the Nith, and to restore this beautiful house as a cultural inspiration, and I am confident that with people like Joanna on board we are going to succeed."

In August the Loreburn Association announced it was to bulldoze the building, retaining only the facade and using the site for sheltered housing and a visitor centre.

It was only after discussion with the local council and Historic Scotland that the Moat Brae group, which later became the trust, obtained an interim interdict to prevent the demolition and began negotiations to buy the property.

Ahsan Khan, chief executive of Loreburn Housing Association, said: "We are very happy that others have the time and resources to restore the place."

The Moat Brae Trust is understood to have had its initial offer of 50,000 for the property rejected by the housing association.

But after further negotiation the two sides agreed a 1 purchase price, with the Brae Trust having to pay a three-year cost price, thought to be 75,000.

Conservation architects who have inspected Moat Brae estimate that it will cost at least 2m to restore. Immediate funds of about 25,000 will be needed urgently to make the building weatherproof.

Moat Brae House and its gardens were cited by Barrie as the inspiration behind "the boy who never grew up" and his Neverland adventures with Captain Hook and the Lost Boys.

As a pupil at nearby Dumfries Academy, Barrie befriended the boys who lived at the house and played in the garden beside the River Nith with his school friends.

After receiving the freedom of Dumfries he revealed that it was his adventures there that had inspired the story of the boy who never grew up and his Neverland escapades with crocodiles, fairies and pirates.

HOME WILL EVER BE NEVERLAND

JM BARRIE drew inspiration for Neverland from the garden at Moat Brae House where he played pirates as a schoolboy in the 1870s.

After changing hands several times, the category B-listed house became a nursing home until it was eventually sold to developers in 1997.

Plans to transform the property to its former glory came to nothing and the building lay empty for ten years. The once-glorious garden became a wasteland, and the house was regularly vandalised.

The property was put on the market again and was bought last year for a reported 140,000 by Loreburn Housing Association in Dumfries, which said it wanted to save it for the town.

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