THE closure of a leading agricultural college will be a devastating blow for the future of farming in the Tyne Valley.

That’s the view of Annabelle Morshead, a prominent local farmer and landowner, who values the role of the Newton Rigg campus in Penrith, for maximising opportunities in the industry for young people.

It has been announced that the college will close in July 2021, because it is no longer financially viable.

More than 100 people are set to lose their jobs, and the decision was described as a “hammer blow” for the industry by the University and College Union.

Now Annabelle, who previously served as the Country Land & Business Association’s (CLA) North-East chairwoman, has expressed her own concerns.

“I think it’s deeply worrying that we are going to lose such a place in the heart of livestock country,” said the Langley farmer.

“Young people are the future of the industry, and Newton Rigg provided them with the training and qualifications they needed.”

The college is in discussions with education providers in Cumbria for progression opportunities beyond July 2021. Annabelle said an alternative to Newton Rigg must be found.

She added: “Not all school leavers can go to university, and not all of them want to. Agriculture is an option for young people in the Tyne Valley, and it’s vital that we provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed.”

At present, Newton Rigg provides full time programmes for 16-19 year-olds, as well as opportunities to gain apprenticeships and degrees.