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Council supports fight to save Newton Rigg

Virginia Taylor

Eden District Council has pledged to support the fight to save Newton Rigg.

The council has been a constant exponent of the importance of the college to the district and to the county as a whole and is disappointed to hear of Askham Bryan’s proposed closure of the campus with effect from 31 July 2021.

This decision follows Askham Bryan’s request for an independent review of the Newton Rigg Campus, which was led by the Further Education Commissioner’s Office.  Having considered the review, which identified a number of significant challenges, the Askham Bryan College Corporation concluded that site closure was the only viable course of action.

The Council has worked closely with Askham Bryan to propose measures to ensure the long term viability of the campus ever since it was acquired by the college in 2011. Over the years a number of options and opportunities have been explored, in partnership with the owners.

The Council has also undertaken studies and submitted funding applications in partnership with the College, as well as considering investment opportunities on the site to improve its long term sustainability.

The Council has always recognised that the College’s presence in the District provides the area with specific qualifications and skills training which are a huge benefit to its rural economy. In addition, the College provides good quality employment for the local area and it is imperative that this continues into the future.

Eden District Council leader, Cllr. Virginia Taylor, said: “I was disappointed to hear that Askham Bryan College will stop providing education at Newton Rigg in 2021. Land-based education there has a long and distinguished history. It will be impossible for many students to travel to the nearest colleges outside the county so many will have to sacrifice their education.

“The Council is totally committed to working with partners throughout the county to develop a Cumbrian solution which can retain the best of the Newton Rigg tradition, including the talented and experienced staff. Innovative solutions need to provide for the traditional and future skills needed in agriculture and land-based technologies, for higher-skilled jobs in emerging new technologies, and for vocational education no longer provided in Eden following the regrettable closure of Appleby Heritage Centre.”

Eden District Council’s Deputy leader, CLEP Board Member and Chair of the Rural Sector Panel, Cllr. Mary Robinson, said: “The Rural Economy is a critical part of Cumbria’s overall economy both from the contribution that it makes to UK food supply and also its important contribution to creating the landscape that we all enjoy here in Cumbria.

“We in the rural community are determined that provision is maintained beyond 2021 and will be working with all interested parties to help to achieve this. Almost everybody in the rural community has had a family member or friends attend Newton Rigg and has a very strong affection and association for it.

“Going forward we need to preserve the essence and heritage at Newton Rigg, whilst at the same time responding to the new opportunities in agri-tech and wider new technologies.”

Councillor Doug Lawson, Mayor of Penrith said: “The loss of Newton Rigg would be a terrible blow for Penrith. This is an awful prospect for the 117 staff who risk losing their jobs and the knock-on effects to the Penrith economy are very bad news indeed. The educational opportunities that the college provides in agriculture are of vital importance and I will be supporting the trade unions and all parties who share a commitment to trying to fight this decision”.

Councillor Ali Ross said: “At the very time that Eden Council is seeking to build strong partnerships to ensure that the district is taking the necessary action to tackle the climate and ecological crisis, we face the loss of a key partner. We need good local educational expertise to equip our young people with the knowledge they will need to be able to deliver healthy food, a resilient environment, and the restoration of nature for future generations. My heart goes out to those threatened with losing their jobs and to the students whose opportunities look likely to be curtailed. This decision must be challenged.”

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