FORMER Workington MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Baroness Sue Hayman is calling for a Parliamentary inquiry into the controversial closure of the county’s only agricultural college.

The peer, a member of the Defra Select Committee, is lobbying for an inquiry in a bid to reverse the closure decision of Newton Rigg this summer.

She is joined by former Workington MP, Dale Campbell-Savours and Lord David Clark of Windermere, who in a statement said they are raising questions into the finances of the doomed college.

Dale Campbell-Savours told The Cumberland News: “Owners Askham Bryan should not be given much more than the £1 they paid for it 10 years ago.When I was a boy in the county 65 years ago, this was the pearl in our education system. These people have run it down. They have different priorities. This is a shameful episode in the history of education in the county. They do not even register their Newton Rigg Students at Askham Bryan as Newton Rigg students. They are registered as AB students for Government training and tuition grant purposes.”

Tim Whitaker, chief executive officer and principal of Askham Bryan College, denied the rumours surrounding their purchase of Newton Rigg Campus and wanted to set the record straight. “Claims about the site being purchased for £1 are inaccurate. The college can confirm that it paid a seven-figure sum during 2011 and 2013 related to acquisition of Newton Rigg Campus,” said Mr Whitaker.

He added: “We understand this is a very difficult situation for the local and wider community. However, the financial landscape for further education colleges is extremely challenging.

“Since Askham Bryan College acquired Newton Rigg Campus in 2011, it has invested millions in capital building funds and absorbed significant annual financial operating losses at the site. This is information that we have previously shared with stakeholders.”

Meanwhile, the multi-million pound bid from a cross-industry group, known as Newton Rigg Ltd, has said in a statement it was not possible to finalise an agreement with a college partnership to enable it to proceed with their visionary bid before the deadline of today.

But Newton Rigg Limited said it would now focus on a ‘Plan B’, details of which they would unveil to the community as soon as possible.

“We are confident that we can preserve Newton Rigg for Cumbria and we will work with our many individual, corporate and local industry supporters to make this happen. We will also be discussing our Plan B with the FEC, to highlight that an alternative solution for Newton Rigg could be supported by Askham Bryan College as part of the intended disposal of the assets.”