Campaigners unveil plan to open new Newton Rigg College

Campaigners aim to welcome learners to the new Newton Rigg College in 2024-2025 (Photo: Cumbria YFC)
Campaigners aim to welcome learners to the new Newton Rigg College in 2024-2025 (Photo: Cumbria YFC)

A plan to open a new Newton Rigg College has been unveiled by campaigners looking to rebuild the future of land-based education in Cumbria.

Newton Rigg Ltd has launched an 'urgent action plan' which seeks to build a new college to open in 2024 or 2025.

The community organisation is calling for support, starting with training courses this year and the introduction of apprenticeships in 2022.

This would lead up to the opening of a 'new and independent' Cumbrian Newton Rigg College two to three years after.

“Rebuilding land-based education will not be an easy journey in light of the current challenges facing education, but we are making it possible," Newton Rigg Ltd said.

"Our message remains clear: Any compromise of land-based education in Cumbria is not an option."

Earlier this year, a community attempt to keep the 125-year-old agricultural college open failed.

The Further Education Commissioner's (FEC) strategic review concluded that it had been unable to identify an organisation to continue delivering education at the site.

The college was already earmarked to close in July 2021 after owners Askham Bryan College confirmed that it would no longer deliver education from the site.

Askham Bryan explained that declining student numbers at the Penrith campus had left it with significant financial losses.

But Newton Rigg Ltd said in a new update on the campaign group's website on Thursday (22 April) that 'Cumbria needs Newton Rigg College'.

It said: "At this critical moment in Cumbria’s history, and the changes to rural practice following Brexit, our community has a unique opportunity to bring Newton Rigg back to Cumbria.

"We must pull together with great urgency to make this happen and we hope the whole community will get behind this urgent action plan to rebuild land-based education in Cumbria."

Newton Rigg Ltd has been relying on donations from individuals and organisations including Westmorland Limited and Carrs Group, alongside the voluntary support of expert educators and advisors.

The organisation's director Chris Crewdson said: “We are incredibly grateful to the supporters whose generous donations have funded our fight to save Newton Rigg so far.

"Our fundraising must intensify to support two key areas: Stepping up our legal support at this pivotal moment, and employing initial key staff who will launch our expert-led Newton Rigg Ltd training and apprenticeship programmes.”