CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed the news that the future of Cumbria’s only agricultural college is on the table at a Parliamentary inquiry into the future of land-based education.

It was revealed on Wednesday that the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Parliamentary Select Committee, made up of 11 MPs, will investigate the future of land-based education, with Newton Rigg College at Penrith also on the agenda.

Penrith and the Border MP Dr Neil Hudson – a member of the committee – said: “This sector is so important to the rural economy of Cumbria and the wider UK and it is important that we evaluate the Newton Rigg situation so that we can work together with stakeholders on the provision of land-based education in Cumbria aiming for a new Newton Rigg to emerge.”

Cumbrian peer Dale Campbell-Savours has been fighting the closure, together with former Cabinet member Lord [David] Clark of Windermere and former Workington MP and Shadow Cabinet minister Baroness [Sue] Hayman for an inquiry into the closure of the college this summer, after being inundated with calls from the Cumbrian rural community calling on him to help save the campus.

Lord Campbell-Savours said: “It has been a real struggle for me to secure this enquiry which I now greatly welcome.

"Much of my time over the last six weeks has been spent arguing behind the scenes for a full parliamentary investigation to be carried out. I hope Cumbria can speak with a single voice.

"We want Newton Rigg to be saved and rebuilt as one of the UK's leading agricultural learning institutions.”

Adam Day, managing director of The Farmer Network, based in Penrith said: “I hope that the select committee will be left in no doubt as to the importance of farming, food production, and environmental management in equal measure.

"The farming community is best placed to deliver all of those elements in future. Now more than ever, it is essential that the right training and education provision across the land-based skills sector is delivered in Cumbria”.

Bosses from Askham Bryan will be called as witnesses to the committee on Tuesday. Chief executive and principal Tim Whitaker said: “Whilst this is not an official inquiry into the closure of Newton Rigg, it will be discussed within the session’s broader context of the future of national land-based education and delivery of the Government’s new Environmental Land Management scheme. The college welcomes the opportunity to take part.”

Other witnesses being called at the inquiry, which will be held virtually and will be available to watch on, are Tom Bradshaw, Vice President of the National Farmers Union; Shireen Chambers MBE, executive director of the Institute of Chartered Foresters; Alex Payne, chief executive, Landex; Lord Inglewood, chair, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership; Jo Lappin, CEO, Cumbria LEP; and Judith Clapham, director of governance at Askham Bryan.