Support is growing for the threatened Newton Rigg College in Penrith.

The future of the historic farming college is in doubt after senior staff at Askham Bryan College in York, which has run Newton Rigg since 2011, called for a “strategic review” to be carried out into its operation.

But calls for the campus to be saved and strengthened has come from the Cumbrian farming community and farm leaders.

“It will be so sad if we lose the campus. This is the third time it has been in jeopardy,” said Robert Craig, an Ainstable dairy farmer and past student.

“Newton Rigg is right in the heart of farming country, and with farming changing in the future it would be a shame if we lost the campus at this point,” added Mr Craig.

National Farmers Union North West regional director David Hall said it was vital for the young people of Cumbria to have access to skills and training in the rural and agricultural sectors, and the college was best placed to deliver this.”

The Penrith college currently has around 820 students and apprentices studying on a wide range of courses – mostly in farming and other land-based subjects.

The review is being carried out by the Department for Education’s further education commissioner Richard Atkins, a former FE college principal and chief executive, after Askham Bryan authorities became concerned about the financial implications of continuing to run Newton Rigg, which is one of six campuses if operates.

Dr Tim Whitaker, chief executive officer at Askham Bryan, said all courses at Newton Rigg campus are continuing as planned for this academic year, 2019-20. Confirming the independent review on the college’s website, Mr Whitaker said it was anticipated to conclude in May, and all staff and students, as well as external stakeholders, are being informed.

Former full-time agricultural student Neil Brough, whose family farm at Dalston, said: “We do not want to lose Newton Rigg. A lot of farmers have studied there and it is an asset to the farming community.”

Just last summer an ambitious plan was unveiled to knock down Newton Rigg to make way for housing and build a new hi-tech campus and accommodation for students on nearby land.