CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to fight to save doomed Newton Rigg College despite two bids to save it were rejected.

A strategic review co-ordinated by the government's further education commissioner, which began back in June, turned down the two bids to save the Penrith college from closure.

Owner Askham Bryan College had received two bids to take over the site, including a multi-million pound bid from a cross-industry group, known as Newton Rigg Ltd.

But the commissioner concluded that neither of the bidding parties met the criteria to secure the long-term success of a potential new college. And it has recommended that the site should close in July 2021, as planned.

A group, which includes local MP Neil Hudson, Eden District Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership, has been given until early 2021 to see if they can form a reduced, alternative provision at the site, likely to be focused on land-based education.

In the meantime, Askham Bryan College will try to find a buyer, or multiple buyers, for the site.

Adam Day, Managing Director of The Farmer Network based on the Newton Rigg site, said: "Since the announcement last week the Farmer Network has had a number of members making contact to say how disappointed they are with the sad news. I don’t hold out much hope for the future of the existing campus and learning provision. It is clear that Askham Bryan have every intention of cashing in the site for maximum value and taking the money back to Yorkshire. It is very sad and leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many.

"All is not lost. A strategy for the continuation of land- based learning in Cumbria is being worked on. We have the opportunity to start with a blank canvas and my hope is that the agriculture and education sectors of Cumbria can quickly get together and formulate a plan. Perhaps a multi- partner approach might work."

Ainstable dairy farmer, Robert Craig, described the move as 'very sad news for Cumbria'. "As a past student who benefited greatly from having a local further education facility this is sure to leave a hole, especially for those whom the option of residential education elsewhere isn't an option. I'm no expert in the business of further education but perhaps we should look at this as a new beginning, an opportunity look with fresh eyes at what's needed in Cumbria and then provide what the country requires for the long term future of farming, food, Cumbria and rural land management. I'm sure if we the farming community puts our heads together we could find a solution using colleges which already exist in the county and a network of progressive farms providing the practical experience."

Newton Rigg Ltd chairman Andrew Cobb said he was "deeply disappointed and frustrated” that that review rejected their proposals. But he vowed that the fight to “prevent this stripping of educational assets from Cumbria will continue".