MORE than 100 members of teaching staff are to lose their jobs after one of the North’s leading agricultural colleges announced it will close next year.

Newton Rigg College, in Penrith, is attended by young farmers and agricultural workers from across Tynedale and throughout the North, but this week revealed it will close because it is no longer financially viable.

The closure of the facility, which is run by Askham Bryan College, would see 117 job losses and be a “hammer blow” for the region, said University and College Union (UCU).

Tim Whitaker, principal of Askham Bryan College, said: “This has been a very difficult decision. We regret putting staff at risk of redundancy.

“Given the current economic climate, and the fact that no capital or revenue funding is available, we have no other option but to propose closing the facility in July 2021.”

The UCU has vowed to fight the closure of the agricultural campus based in Penrith.

Penrith and the Border MP, Dr Neil Hudson, said: “This is hugely disappointing news for the students and staff of Newton Rigg. I will continue to do my utmost to secure a viable future for Newton Rigg. It is so important to our rural economy.”

The CLA has also commented on the major impact it could have on the farming industry.

Its director for the North, Dorothy Fairburn, said: “The proposed closure of Newton Rigg College represents a major blow for every student, apprentice and employee at the college which has played an historic part as incubator for young people wanting to pursue a career in the countryside.

“We welcome the 12 month reprieve before the closure, and it is our sincere hope that during this period, a solution can be found to secure the future of the college for the sake of everyone who has a stake in it.”

“The CLA’s Rural Powerhouse campaign emphasises the importance of agri–educational institutions and research facilities as key enablers for the rural economy in keeping its workforce equipped for an increasingly technology-led sector.”