CUMBRIA’S only agricultural college is to go on the market next week, along with its two farms.

The owners of Newton Rigg confirmed that college staff had been informed on Thursday that Newton Rigg campus and Sewborwens Farm, in Penrith, and Low Beckside Farm, in Mungrisdale were being put up for sale through Savills Estate Agents from Tuesday, May 4 onwards.

Remaining college staff, it is believed, were being given notice today, while the Farmer Network and the Cumbria Federation of Young Farmers, have been told they must leave by July 31.

Bosses, York-based Askham Bryan claim they are legally able to continue with the Newton Rigg Campus closure and sale, and strongly denied asset stripping claims saying they had invested £4.4 million in capital and bore substantial losses supporting the site.

Tim Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer and Principal, Askham Bryan College, said: “For 10 years we have strived to make the provision of education at Newton Rigg sustainable and heavily subsidised the site during that time but, regrettably, it is not viable.

"Since 1992, four other educational organisations have also tried but not been able to make Newton Rigg sustainable and no obvious alternative providers have been identified since the decision to close was taken.”

In a statement, Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, said: "We are calling for Government to confirm whether or not Askham Bryan are within their legal rights to dispose of the college land and assets.

"If they are, we are asking Government to ensure that they live up to this moral obligation so that we can secure a long term future for land-based education delivered here in Cumbria, which is exactly what our inquiry heard that Cumbria needs and indeed must have.

"In questioning Askham Bryan, I, as a member of the EFRA Committee, was able to get them to confirm that if they were within their rights to sell, that they do not actually need to achieve market value if the new owner continues with the charitable goals.”

A spokesperson from Newton Rigg Ltd, the community organisation fighting to save Newton Rigg said yesterday: “Whatever mistakes led to this disaster, the Government can still take action to save Newton Rigg for future generations.

"Give it back to Cumbria and we’ll make it work; let it go and it’s lost forever.”