THREE former MPs are calling for a Parliamentary inquiry into a controversial decision by a college in York to close a campus in Cumbria and sell off the site.

The three Peers - Dale Campbell-Savours, David Clark and Sue Hayman - want a Defra select committee to examine Askham Bryan College’s actions in closing Newton Rigg in Penrith, which they claim is "asset-stripping" and will have a major impact on the local community.

Askham Bryan took over Newton Rigg from the University of Cumbria in 2011, and it currently has 440 further education students, 96 apprentices and 117 staff.

Lord Campbell-Savors, a former long-serving MP for Workington, said almost the entire college’s staff had been given notice of redundancy for later this year but alternative proposals were being worked up by "people with a loyalty to Cumbria".

He said he was convinced that Askham Bryan’s agenda was driven by the value of land at Newton Rigg, which was worth at least £10 million but which, he said, had originally been given to Askham Bryan for nothing.

Baroness Hayman said: “We want the House of Commons Defra select committee to carry out an inquiry into the whole affair.

“I have this week contacted every member of the committee, asking them to establish an urgent inquiry.”

Lord Clark, a former Cabinet minister, said: “Newton Rigg is part of our history.” He claimed that Newton Rigg had been run down for years and Cumbria was now paying the price, adding: “Newton Rigg is at the very heart of Cumbrian education provision.”

Tim Whitaker, CEO and Principal at Askham Bryan College, said it understood the strength of feeling for Newton Rigg amongst students, staff and the local and wider community, and "regretted the upset that the campus closure and job losses will cause". He added: “We will continue to support our students and staff during this difficult time.”

A college spokesperson said it had invested considerable funds and absorbed financial losses since acquiring the campus but, due to demographic, financial and recruitment challenges, it was not financially sustainable.

They said speculation that the college had bought Newton Rigg for £1 was inaccurate and it had paid a seven-figure sum between 2011 and 2013 "related to the acquisition" and subsidised a significant annual operating deficit amounting to up to £7 million between 2011 and 2020.

The former MPs have spoken out after a final decision about Newton Rigg was confirmed earlier this month when a Further Education Commissioner (FEC)-led strategic review concluded it had been unable to identify an organisation to continue delivering sustainable land based education there and Askham Bryan College should continue with finding a buyer for the site. The review identified that most provision currently delivered at Newton Rigg could be provided in Cumbria by other post 16 FE providers.

Mr Whitaker said it was "very disappointing" the review didn’t receive a sustainable option for Newton Rigg.