Plans to knock down areas of Riseholme College to make room for hundreds of new houses is putting the future of farming in Lincolnshire under threat, a Farm Trust Panel has said.
Lodge Farm at Riseholme College has been put up for sale for £4.6 million, and a formal planning application for its housing development is expected within weeks.
While the university states the new development will be ’education-led’, the Lincoln Farm Trust Panel claims such a development could spell the end of agricultural further education in Lincolnshire.
The Lincoln Farm Trust, a group of respected Lincolnshire farmers, headed by Charles Dobson said agricultural further education is essential in Lincolnshire.
Mr Dobson said: "It is essential for the county and the agricultural industry in general.
"It would be a disaster if these plans were allowed to go ahead."
According to the Lincoln Farm Trust, the land at Riseholme is bound under a legal agreement, a Trust Deed, requiring its use to be for the provision of land-based further education, despite the land and buildings being owned by the University of Lincoln.
The Government’s Skills Funding Agency (SFA) claims it also has a legally-binding agreement with the university called an Asset Deed.
Both the SFA and the Farm Trust Panel are determined to protect the site for the use of training future generations of farmers.
The issue could end up being taken to court before it is resolved, which it is believed would be the first time a Government department has taken a university to court.
Mr Dobson said: "The Trust exists to protect the assets for further education in agriculture.
"The university say that the panel doesn’t exit – they refer to us as ‘the alleged panel’. But the Skills Funding Agency is very much on our side and this could go to court.
"We have this asset and we must not lose it."
While the college recently opened a new campus at Lincolnshire Showground, this campus does not include a farm to aid the practical farming skills of students, or the facilities to run equine courses.
Jeanette Dawson, chief executive and principal of Riseholme College said the priority of the college will always be the interest of the students.
"I am aware of the on-going situation between the Skills Funding Agency, the Lincoln Farm Trust Panel and the University of Lincoln," Ms Dawson said.
"Our priority, as ever, is the best interests of our students and this will always be our focus."
Mr Dobson said the sale of Lodge Farm would be a ’tremendous loss’ to the college and agricultural education.
He said: "It is absolutely paramount we protect these assets for further education and that’s why the Lincoln Farm Trust Panel was set up.
"This farm should be used as an educational facility.
"Students could use other farms but the government would never buy a farm for agricultural education ever again. It would be lost forever, in that sense. It would be a tremendous loss.
"People in the agricultural community understand what is going on. I would say people are very much in favour of us retaining this asset, so there is a lot of support.
"One thing is for certain – we will not be giving up."