A NEW independent agricultural college is on the cards for Cumbria.

That's the pledge from a group fighting to save125-year-old Newton Rigg college from closure in the summer with more than 100 jobs losses.

Yesterday the Further Education Commissioner announced it deemed the Penrith college financially unviable and found no suitable bids were received to take it over.

More than 500 students and apprentices attend, but the FEC said "most" courses and training could be found elsewhere. Owner Askham Bryan College in York plans to sell the site when it closes in July.

However, chairman of one of two bids submitted in a bid to save the college, Newton Rigg Limited, Professor Andrew Cobb, made the following statement: "It’s time to move beyond the Strategic Review. Our financial partners, who share our commitment to Newton Rigg’s future, will now seek to purchase the campus from Askham Bryan thus facilitating our 3-5-year strategy: A new dawn of Newton Rigg-led training and apprenticeships, the progressive development of a Rural Business School and Agri-Tech initiative, all forming a robust pathway to the incorporation of a new, independent, Cumbrian, Newton Rigg College.

"The FEC are aware of our proposals and we are in advanced discussions with the Education and Skills Funding Agency about support for our innovative ‘build it back better’ strategy for Newton Rigg. Our plans are fully in line with Government objectives on future skills training and apprenticeships."

National Farmers Union (NFU) Cumbria County Chairman Ian Bowness said: "The NFU is saddened by this announcement but our objective remains clear despite Newton Rigg's impending closure. We must make sure there is an agricultural education provision in the county in whatever shape or form that may be."

Adam Day, Managing Director of The Farmer Network, said: "I am not surprised. Our worst fears have come true. Now we need to think out of the box. Land-based education needs to be protected in this county."