open letter to the cumberland and westmorland herald
This is now our last chance to protect Newton Rigg. Hundreds of Cumbrians – and well-wishers from further afield – have signed our petition to ‘Keep Newton Rigg Cumbrian’, and continue to email me daily with their messages of support. We now need one last push.
As you know, this is something which we have been fighting through hundreds of events, meetings and representations for well over a year. I have written again this week to the Minister of State, David Willetts, to press for more legal protection. But we are now facing a crisis. The bidding process on Newton Rigg is ending. This is our last chance to put in place clear and real protection for the all the land and buildings.
I don’t need to remind any Herald reader that Newton Rigg is much-loved local institution with a great name and great potential for the county and the country. We were all delighted to see the support which we received when the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, and Agriculture Minister Jim Paice, visited the college a fortnight ago. But we now need more than kind words.
The current SFA rules allow a bidder to dispose of the assets with the approval of the SFA and the secretary of state. And – as we have seen from the way Newton Rigg was treated over the last ten years, and the way small agricultural colleges have been treated elsewhere – this is not good enough. We need much more protection and in writing. The current legal documents – that even our lawyers have found difficult to navigate – are insufficient protection.
Better legal protection for Newton Rigg is non-negotiable. We should not support or work with any bid from any provider, which does not provide better protection and security for Newton Rigg. It is perfectly within the power of any provider such as Askham Bryan to agree to such protection. And the SFA will support them if they do. If the provider refuses to sign such guarantees we should be deeply suspicious of their long term intentions.
Please, therefore, give one last push: sign our online petition or join our campaign (http://rorystewart.co.uk/campaigns/newtonrigg) to insist on better legal protection for Newton Rigg or send any letters of support which I can forward to the bidders and the Secretary of State.