THE closure of Cumbria's only agricultural college has been condemned by trade union leaders as an act of 'educational vandalism'.

A motion condemning the 'sell-off' of Newton Rigg College at Penrith was passed at last weekend’s Northern TUC Conference, moved and seconded by Penrith and the Border Labour Party members Iain Owens and Karen Lockney.

The conference condemned the decision of owners, Askham Bryan College, York, supported by the FE Commissioner and the Department for Education to close the college.

It was resolved that the TUC Northern Executive would write to the governors of Askham Bryan, the Secretary of State for Education and the FE Commissioner condemning the ‘act of educational vandalism’, and to seek support from the shadow Secretaries of State for Education, and Food and Rural Affairs for opposition to the closure.

Iain Owens, acting in his capacity as Regional Official for the Northern Region of the University and College Union (UCU) said, “I am pleased that unions across the region supported this motion and recognise the vital importance of Newton Rigg to the Cumbrian economy and way of life, and understand the impact this will have on learners and staff.”

Karen Lockney, Cumbrian County Councillor spoke in debate on public services at the conference and said, “The value of Newton Rigg College to Cumbria cannot be measured on an Excel spreadsheet, but by the opportunity it gives to the many young men and women who wish to stay in this county, whose aspirations are to work on the land. This is worth far more than the projected £12million the owners will gain from the sale of the site.”

'Conference believes that this is a time when more government resources need to be spent on training and education for young people and, increasingly, for unemployed adults.

'Cumbria, the most rural of counties will no longer have a provider of land based education and training. Young people will not have a Further education college within 20 miles of Penrith.'

Last week a Parliamentary inquiry left MPs with a clear impression that land-based education needs to continue at the 125-year-old campus.