A group set up to save Newton Rigg College said it still had confidence in its plans to buy the campus.
It was announced yesterday that the Further Education Commissioner-led Newton Rigg Strategic Review concluded it had been unable to identify an organisation to continue delivering sustainable land-based education at the campus, and owner Askham Bryan College should continue with finding a buyer for the site.
But Newton Rigg Limited – a group of of businessman, farmers and educationalists – said its investment partners will bid to buy the assets of Newton Rigg outright and facilitate a sustainable solution for the future of land-based education in Cumbria.
It, along with another bidder, initially put forward a proposal to take on the college from Askham Bryan, but they were both rejected by the review as not being sustainable.
Professor Andrew Cobb, chairman of Newton Rigg Ltd, said: “It’s time to move beyond the strategic review.
“Our financial partners, who share our commitment to Newton Rigg’s future, will now seek to purchase the campus from Askham Bryan, thus facilitating our three to five-year strategy – a new dawn of Newton Rigg-led training and apprenticeships, the progressive development of a rural business school and agri-tech initiative, all forming a robust pathway to the incorporation of a new, independent, Cumbrian Newton Rigg College.
“We have recognised that a small portion of Newton Rigg’s surplus campus land will need to be released for employment purposes – as foreseen in the local development plan – and that in due course, and subject to planning approval, a further small portion of the land surrounding the campus will need to be developed for alternative use.
“These developments will not compromise Newton Rigg’s educational viability or scope, but will contribute to the finances which will be needed to enhance the facilities at Newton Rigg and ensure the sustainable hub of education and training that Cumbria needs.
“The FEC are aware of our proposals and we are in advanced discussions with the Education and Skills Funding Agency about support for our innovative ‘build it back better’ strategy for Newton Rigg.
“Our plans are fully in line with the Government’s objectives on future skills training and apprenticeships.
“We know that today’s news will bring huge disappointment.
“This has been an incredibly challenging time for all involved with Newton Rigg. But we must now look to the future and ask Cumbria to have faith in the many stakeholders backing this ‘build it back better’ plan.
“We are also working very hard on potential solutions that we hope will enable existing learners to continue their land-based studies with access to the campus and farms.
“We will be sharing more news on this front as soon as possible.”