WORCESTERSHIRE Parkway has taken a big step forward - with the Secretary of State signing off the multi-million pound project.

After a furious dispute over the rights to develop the site with a private company, we exclusively revealed last month how a public inquiry had been shelved.

The Government has now confirmed that the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) has been finalised without the need for an extended legal wrangle after the objections were withdrawn.

The key milestone means Worcestershire County Council can now crack on with one of its flagship projects, which promises to deliver better train services and fresh inward investment.

Councillor Ken Pollock, the cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "The Secretary of State's decision brings certainty for everyone.

"We can now continue to work with our partners to focus on realising the economic potential of this very important scheme."

We revealed last month how the Norton site's landowner, Annie Hartwright, had reached a deal with bosses at County Hall to hand it over.

It came despite the threat of a private developer, Norton Parkway Developments Ltd, which claimed it had first-rights to develop the land, leading to council chiefs triggering the formal CPO process.

Yesterday a spokesman for the Hartwright family said: "We are delighted to have recently completed, with professional advice, the sale by agreement of our land to the county council.

"This will enable, we hope, the important parkway station to be delivered.

"There have been no other legitimate interests in our land since 2012 despite third party claims otherwise."

The scheme is 10 months behind schedule but is now set to open in the spring of 2018, with work starting on the grand project early next year.

Off Woodbury Lane, the 14-acre triangle of land will include a single platform on the Cotswold Line and two platforms on the Birmingham-Bristol Line.

A main station building with toilets, a booking office and some retail alongside a 500-space car park is also included.

Norton Parkway Development does own the land immediately outside the 14-acres, and wants to submit its own planning application to build the station office on its site.

But the county council will now press on with its own development, which will cost upwards of £22 million.

A mixture of Government grant money and borrowing will fund the bill, paid back via parking revenue and train operator's fees.