The owner of Newton Rigg has defended its decision to close the campus near Penrith, saying claims that it was asset stripping the site were misleading.
It added that it was legally entitled to press ahead with the sale of the campus.
MPs, who grilled Newton Rigg bosses in a Select Committee public inquiry last month, have written to the Government to urge it to find a reasonable solution for the colleges future.
The York-based Askham Bryan College, which owns Newton Rigg, has released a statement responding to the MPs’ call.
During the inquiry, Askham Bryan chief executive Tim Whitaker could not respond to MPs’ questions and was asked to provide written evidence following the meeting about the asset deed and financial position of Newton Rigg campus.
Mr Whitaker, who is also principal of Askham Bryan College, said: “We regret the impact of the difficult closure decision on our Newton Rigg campus students and staff and understand that feelings continue to run high within the Cumbrian community and beyond.
“It is very disappointing that a sustainable solution for Newton Rigg campus has not been found.
“We welcomed discussing the future of national land based education with the committee given our expertise within the sector, and we also welcomed the opportunity to respond to some misleading claims about the closure of our Cumbrian campus.
“The college has never had the power to nullify the asset deed, therefore, the college did not nullify the deed when it acquired the Newton Rigg site in 2011 and, as an independent, self-governing organisation and exempt charity, we are legally able to continue with the Newton Rigg campus closure and sale.
“The college strongly refutes asset stripping claims having invested £4.4 million in capital and incurring substantial losses supporting the site.
“For 10 years we have strived to make the provision of education at Newton Rigg Campus 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.
“We have a responsibility to invest in and ensure the very best experience for all Askham Bryan College students across all our campuses.
“Although Askham Bryan College has faced financial challenges that are common across the further education sector, it has not required formal government and financial intervention from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
“We are doing all we can to support our Newton Rigg students and staff at this difficult time.”
There are 536 learners at Newton Rigg this academic year and the college said they were being supported with careers information, advice and guidance to help them plan their next steps including course options locally and regionally.
This includes the new revised land based offer announced last month by a new partnership between Myerscough College and Ullswater Community College which is also based in Penrith.
Kendal College is also offering an additional, complementary range of courses.
Askham Bryan added: “College staff have been informed, since February 2021, about preparations for the sale process and they have been updated today on the confirmed date when Newton Rigg campus and Sewborwens Farm, in Penrith, and Low Beckside Farm, in Mungrisdale, are being put up for sale through Savills Estate Agents, which is from Tuesday, May 4 onwards.
“The college followed a rigorous, 18-month independent review process of its Cumbrian campus which involved sector experts and was led by the Further Education Commissioner.
“The review process concluded that the closure of Newton Rigg Campus was the only viable option open to the college.
“The process, which was completed in February 2021, was also unable to find an appropriate alternative education provider to take over the site.”