The Government must intervene to save Newton Rigg says the consortium behind plans to keep land-based education in Cumbria.
Newton Rigg Ltd, which wants to open a new college on the existing campus near Penrith, says operator Askham Bryan College is ‘robbing Cumbrian Peter to pay Yorkshire Paul’.
In a statement released this afternoon, it said there was outcry over the college’s plans to sell Newton Rigg’s land and farms but it was still fighting for Government intervention.
A spokesman said: “We must not let the wool be pulled over our eyes.
“The fight is still not over. Yes, it is now confirmed that Askham Bryan College will cease running courses at the Newton Rigg Campus, and yes, Askham Bryan are pushing forward with advertising the property for sale.
“But this does not mean that Newton Rigg College cannot still be protected and rebuilt as a centre of land-based education in Cumbria.
“Stakeholders submitted a large number of questions to the Select Committee, to be put to Askham Bryan College, and the answers are still awaited.
“But the question of whether Askham Bryan College are legally entitled to sell Newton Rigg has confused this issue for far too long.
“Whether it is legally entitled to sell or not, the Government should be doing right by Cumbria and ensuring that Newton Rigg’s educational value is preserved by whatever means necessary.
“The Parliamentary inquiry into the situation at Newton Rigg suggested that Askham Bryan College is only able to take this disastrous step as the result of a ‘policy mistake’, which meant that Newton Rigg wasn’t properly safeguarded for educational use when it was originally transferred to Askham Bryan Council’s ownership back in 2011.
“We are calling on the Government to fix their mistake, and give Cumbria the chance to fix Newton Rigg College.
“At the very least, the Government can intervene to ensure that Newton Rigg only changes hands for educational use, so that we can build the college back better in Cumbria.
“Further, the Government should put in place the necessary funding to ensure that land-based education can continue to thrive at Newton Rigg in this most important rural county – before it is too late.
“In the right hands, there is no doubt that Newton Rigg College can be restored to its former glory – as is so essential to the future of our rural economy, of agriculture and of land-based industries throughout the UK. Newton Rigg Ltd, and the many stakeholders backing our cause, are fighting to make this happen.
“There is much going on behind the scenes. We were shocked to see that the correspondence regarding Newton Rigg from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan, following the Parliamentary Inquiry, appeared full of misunderstandings. It suggested real gaps in the information and insight being drawn upon to make decisions that affect Cumbria’s future in a catastrophic way.
“We are responding directly to Gillian Keegan to demand proper attention to this issue, along with action to protect Newton Rigg.”
“The Government makes great claims about supporting the future of farmers and rural skills; only this week Boris Johnson has backed the #FARMINGCAN campaign to ‘shine a light’ on the important role of agriculture.
“The same Government also claims that ‘levelling up’ of prosperity and opportunity is top of its agenda, along with investment in skills development to support every corner of the country. It is time for the Government to stand by these promises.
“Work with us to give Newton Rigg College the future our county needs, and without which, the future of farming, rural prosperity and skills development will be under threat.
“The Government will have permitted a policy of ‘robbing Cumbrian Peter to pay Yorkshire Paul’.
“Protect Newton Rigg College for education in Cumbria; we have the will and the way to make it work.
“Let it go, and our county will suffer for generations.”
Newton Rigg Ltd has launched an £150,000 crowdfunding campaign to support its plan to save Newton Rigg.
An Askham Bryan College spokeswoman said that the college had responded to all of the questions asked by the EFRA Parliamentary Select Committee and that information has been published on the EFRA website here: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/26021/pdf/
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