COUNCIL chiefs have agreed a 'secret' pay-out to allow Worcestershire Parkway to go ahead - but the huge train station development faces a 10-month delay.

A deal has been struck to pay-off a private landowner so the multi-million pound project in Norton can finally press ahead, ending months of deadlock and resulting in a crunch public inquiry being abandoned.

But parkway will now not be complete until March 2018, instead of the original aim of May 2017, due to the land-grab row.

Worcestershire County Council had started Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) proceedings due to its battle with Norton Parkway Developments Ltd, which said it believed it had "a legal right" to develop the land off Woodbury Lane for the station.

The landowner Annie Hartwright has now come to a private agreement with the county council, which has purchased it off her for a sum which is being kept under wraps.

The cost of the scheme was originally put at around £22 million and that has now risen, but the difference is being kept confidential.

The objections to the CPO have now been withdrawn, meaning no public inquiry is needed and it can progress to reality.

Councillor Ken Pollock, the cabinet member for economy and infrastructure, said: "We are delighted with the continued progress of Worcestershire Parkway.

"Now all statutory objections related to the CPO have been withdrawn and we have purchased the land, we can continue to work with our partners to focus on the economic potential of this scheme."

We can also reveal how the dispute has taken a bizarre new twist, with the private company now claiming it wants to deliver parkway on a different patch of land in Norton.

Norton Parkway Developments still directly owns the land sitting right next to the 14-acre triangle subject to the dispute and despite abandoning its CPO objections, now wants to submit a fresh planning application for its own site.

Under the alternative vision, it would use the same railway platforms due to be constructed under the council's scheme, but the other facilities like an office and station ticket office would be situated on its own private land.

A spokesman for Norton Parkway Developments said: "We have not come to any 'agreement' with the council and will now bring forward our own development, which unlike this crazy scheme can be delivered at no extra cost to the taxpayer.

"In the next few weeks we will be submitting our own planning application for a station the other side of the railway line, outside that 14-acre triangle of land.

"The platforms would remain in the same place but there would be a new station building down Woodbury Lane without touching that triangle."

Parkway will include a single platform on the Cotswold Line and two platforms on the Birmingham-Bristol Line as well as a building with toilets, a booking office and some retail alongside a 500-space car park.


A NEW council report on the deal says the land the station sits on will be handed to Network Rail on "either under a land-transfer or a long lease arrangement".

It says Great Western Railway will then operate and manage the station under a Network Rail lease, with the council keeping ownership of the access road and 500-space car park.

That car park will then be "leased to Great Western Railway under a commercial agreement" to pay off some of the borrowing.

The old cost of Worcestershire Parkway was around £22 million, funded by an existing £7.5 million Government grant and a planned loan of around £14 million.

But the report says the expected total cost is now "higher", citing more expensive utility and construction costs than in 2014.

Under the arrangement, which will be signed off at a later date, the council will take a share of car parking cash and train operator ticket fees over a 25-year period to repay the borrowing.

The train firms will carry the risk over fares income and car parking cash, with the report saying the rail companies will "therefore be incentivised to grow patronage at the station".

The report says the deal will be enough to cover County Hall's "long-term maintenance" and other obligations for parts of the station and the highways network around it.

It also adds that Great Western Railway and CrossCountry "will be able to stop their services at the new station", and are supportive of the complex commercial deal.

The report reiterates how parkway will support the "major growth" in expected train use over the future years and attract new inward investment to help to secure that well-publicised target of creating 25,000 new jobs by 2025.

The hope is that it will also slash journey times to London to within two hours.

It will be discussed by the Conservative cabinet tomorrow.