Plans to open a new Newton Rigg College in Cumbria have been revealed.
It is hoped the new independent college will start welcoming its first students in September 2025.
Behind the scheme is community organisation Newton Rigg Ltd, which has launched an urgent action plan to rebuild land-based education in the county.
Operators of the Newton Rigg campus, Askham Bryan, announced that it was pulling out of Cumbria and shutting the facility’s doors.
Its chief executive has been grilled by MPs over the decision and we have launched a petition to save land-based education in the county.
It has been signed by almost 5,000 people.
Newton Rigg Ltd is now calling for support as it works on its plans.
It wants to start with land-based training courses this year, the introduction of apprenticeships in 2022 and leading to the opening of a new, independent, Cumbrian Newton Rigg College in 2024/25.
Professor Andy Cobb, Newton Rigg Ltd chairman, said: “Rebuilding land-based education will not be an easy journey in light of the current challenges facing education, but we are making it possible.
“Our message remains clear: Any compromise of land-based education in Cumbria is not an option.
“The alternative provision currently being offered to some students on some courses is too limited to sustain our communities and industries.
“Cumbria needs Newton Rigg College.
“At this critical moment in Cumbria’s history, and with the changes to rural practice following Brexit, our community has a unique opportunity to bring Newton Rigg back to Cumbria and rebuild this vital institution for generations to come.
“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 and bring back Newton Rigg College for good.”
The urgent action plan is led by influential members of the Cumbrian community along with experts in land-based education including Andrew Counsell, the former Principal of Duchy College, Cornwall, Vice Chair of Landex and Dr Jane Sullivan, director Newton Rigg College 2015-2018 and educational consultant specialising in alternative and further education.
Newton Rigg Ltd has also been supported by major local businesses including Westmorland Ltd and Carrs Group as well as land-based organisations.
Newton Rigg Ltd’s urgent action plan can be outlined in four steps:
STOP THE SALE
While we await the outcome of the Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry, Askham Bryan College are at the same time preparing to advertise Newton Rigg’s campus, land and farms for sale.
Funded by supporters, Newton Rigg Ltd’s legal advisors have already played a critical role in challenging Askham Bryan College’s right to sell Newton Rigg.
Other legal questions relate to the acquisition of Newton Rigg by Askham Bryan in 2011, and Askham Bryan somehow releasing itself from an Asset Deed, of 2007, which was designed to protect Newton Rigg for Further Education.
PROTECT THE ASSETS
Newton Rigg Ltd has begun an initiative for Newton Rigg’s campus, land and farms, once saved, to be held in trust and therefore preserved for educational use, forever.
They are working with legal experts on the most appropriate structure for this trust or foundation to ensure that the assets can never be threatened again.
“All local stakeholders and authorities must pull together to make this happen and we are calling on local and district councils, the LEP, Cumbria MPs, local businesses and other rural stakeholder organisations, such as the Farmers Network and the Foundation for Common Land to support this critical step for Cumbria. “ said Professor Cobb.
REBUILD LAND-BASED EDUCATION WITH TRAINING, APPRENTICESHIPS AND A RURAL BUSINESS SCHOOL
A new initiative, Newton Rigg Training, being set up by Newton Rigg Ltd and advisors will offer training courses this September and apprenticeships starting next year.
Andrew Counsell, who now lives at Hawick, said, “As one of the top farming counties in the country, Cumbria needs to be proud of its own provision based at Newton Rigg, maintaining a long and outstanding history.
“We are creating a Group Training Organisation – a partnership between education and rural business and industry – that will provide education and training that will lead to employment.
“We will also build upon this training offer with the development of the Newton Rigg Rural Business School, that will set the foundations for our future college by creating close and strong links between education and employers, rural businesses and farmers, and the rural community.”
WELCOME NEW LEARNERS AGED 16 AND ABOVE TO A NEW, CUMBRIAN, INDEPENDENT NEWTON RIGG COLLEGE IN SEPTEMBER 2025
Once Newton Rigg Training has been trading as a training provider for a year, the organisation will apply to create an independent, innovative, “new model” Newton Rigg College, using technical innovation and partnerships.
Professor Cobb added: “With the continuing support of government agencies, incorporation of a new, Cumbrian and independent Newton Rigg College will be possible, providing short courses for skills development, apprenticeships and life-long learning programmes to Cumbria and beyond.
“We will deliver a range of further education programmes, leading in time to a higher education portfolio.
“Our aim is to welcome new learners aged 16-plus to a new, Cumbrian and independent Newton Rigg College in September 2025.
“It will be a new dawn for this vital institution built on the strong foundations of expert-led training, robust community and industry links, and the very values upon which this unique land-based college was founded in 1896.”
Newton Rigg Limited is a community-led organisation involving leading experts in land-based and further education.
The organisation has been relying on donations large and small from individuals and organisations including Westmorland Limited and Carrs Group, alongside the voluntary support of expert educators and advisors who have been working on this roadmap for the future with close links in the local land-based community.
Newton Rigg Ltd director Chris Crewdson, former managing director of Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon Ltd in Kendal, said: “We are incredibly grateful to the supporters whose generous donations have funded our fight to save Newton Rigg and land-based education in Cumbria so far.
“Our fundraising must now continue and intensify to support two key areas: Stepping up our legal support at this pivotal moment for Newton Rigg, and employing initial key staff who will launch our expert-led Newton Rigg Ltd training and apprenticeship programmes – the first step in rebuilding Newton Rigg College.
“We are in the process of launching a crowdfunding campaign, but also urge any local businesses or individuals who value Newton Rigg College’s future to get in touch and discuss how they can support our urgent action plan by becoming a sponsor, making a donation or getting involved.”
Sign our petition below: