The announcement of a Government strategic review into the future of Newton Rigg College has been hailed as a "step further forward" in the efforts to save it from closure.

The Penrith further education college, the only specialist provider of agricultural education in the county, had been earmarked for possible closure next July.

Run by Askham Bryan College, the announcement of the proposed closure, made last month, prompted widespread calls to action on a solution to save the college.

One of those campaigning to keep the college open has been Penrith and the Border MP Dr Neil Hudson, and was delighted at the news that the Government had committed to a review of the future of Newton Rigg.

"I am thrilled that as a result of my meetings with them that the Further Education Minister and Further Education Commissioner have decided to undertake this Strategic Review of the College," he said.

"Colleges such as Newton Rigg are not only integral to their local and regional communities but in this case, it is vital for the national economy."

Lord Richard Inglewood, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership chairman and himself a former Newton Rigg student, credited Dr Hudson with leading the "local political pressure" to prompt the review.

"We've moved a step further forward, with a view to achieving a good outcome," he said of the review's announcement. "But there's still quite a long way to go."

Lord Inglewood said the continued presence of specialist land-based education in Cumbria was vital.

"Land activities are one of the key definitions of why Cumbria matters to the nation and the wider world," he said.

"Newton Rigg, because of what it does, is part of the collective identity of this county.

"It's important therefore that we have top of the range land-based training available in various disciplines, both at a further education and at a higher education level."

Lord Inglewood added that he would like to see Newton Rigg return to being "at the forefront of the land-based colleges in the country.

"There was a time when Newton Rigg was recognised across the length and breadth of the land as being one of the pre-eminent places.

"Its reputation has declined, for a whole number of reasons.

"I would like to see Newton Rigg revived and come back to achieve the level of distinction it used to have. That would be good for Cumbria."

Following the review's announcement, a spokesman for Askam Bryan College said: "It is expected that the outcome of this strategic review will be presented to the college corporation in early December 2020, so that any transfer of ownership can take place in time for the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year.”