A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry has left MPs with a clear impression that land-based education needs to continue at closure-hit Newton Rigg College in Penrith.

Following a one-off evidence session on land-based education provision in England, MPs on the House of Commons’ EFRA Committee are to raise concerns about national delivery of education for agriculture and the environment, which includes continued land-based education provision at Newton Rigg.

During the evidence session, Tim Whittaker, CEO of owners Askham Bryan College in York, was called as one of the witnesses and faced a barrage of questions from MPs, and afterwards, Julia Aglionby, Armathwaite farmer and executive director - England, Foundation for Common Land, described how the questioning by a well briefed Barry Gardiner MP had left Mr Whittaker ‘floundering and repeatedly asking if he could respond in writing later.’

“Mr Gardiner’s questioning focused on two key points; the nullification of the Asset Deed limiting the use of Newton Rigg’s assets for further education and training and secondly, the exposure that Newton Rigg is being sold to prop up a financially shaky college in Yorkshire. We were told Askham Bryan’s 2020 accounts are qualified by their accountant to say that unless they sell off Newton Rigg sharpish, Askham Bryan was unlikely to remain a going concern. Newton Rigg is currently valued at £12m,” said Ms Aglionby.

In a statement, Tim Whitaker said the college welcomed the opportunity to discuss the ‘difficult decision’ of closure - an issue people continue to feel strongly about.