PLANS for a £19 million Worcestershire Parkway rail station have moved closer to fruition - as the county council's leader said he will not be held to ransom over the project.

The Conservative cabinet at County Hall has approved the start of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to ensure it can prise the land needed to build the station, in Norton, from private ownership.

As your Worcester News revealed yesterday, the council still needs to acquire the site and is negotiating with a firm called Norton Parkway Development Ltd, which has the rights over it.

The company has its own proposals to build a train station on the land, and claims it can do it at a cheaper cost to the public purse.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: "It is a bit disappointing that they seem to have launched this through the press.

"But it is worth making the point that we are going through a process which doesn't stop somebody from stepping into the county council's shoes if we decide, at a later date, that the correct way to go forward is with a private scheme.

"At a time when frankly, it has the support of Network Rail, the Government has backed it to the tune of £7 million, when you've created a balance sheet in an imaginative and creative way, just when you've got all those moons aligned, I'm not in the mood to stop this process for more negotiations with a private landowner for their probable benefit."

Yesterday the company said it was happy to negotiate over a 'joint agreement' but would not be bullied into handing the site over, and insists it has its own partner on board to deliver it.

The county council is confident the CPO process will not need to go all the way, but insists it will stick to its timetable of submitting a planning application in February, with a view to opening the facility in May 2017.

Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "We do need to move forward quickly and at apace, I make no apology for that.

"This is an ambitious target we've set ourselves.

"On the issue about the land, we'll be seeking to acquire it through negotiation, but we also want to move forward with the CPO if we can't acquire it that way.

"We believe we have a rational, well articulated case."