By 'eck! Our Maureen, Andy and Bill are off. The three characters from the beleaguered soap Coronation Street are slamming their front doors and moving out, hard on the heels of Mavis, played by Thelma Barlow - a 26-year veteran of the show.
Granada Television said last night that Sherrie Hewson, who plays Maureen Holdsworth; Nicholas Cochrane, who plays Andy McDonald; and Peter Armitage who plays Bill Webster, will leave at the end of their contracts in October. The departures were described by the Street's producer Brian Park, as a way to keep the hit show "fresh and at the top of the ratings".
They follow news yesterday that Thelma Barlow is to give up her character of the dithering Mavis Wilton, following the death of her insufferable screen husband Derek, played by Peter Baldwin.
"These decisions are always tough but I have to think of the show's future. Sherrie, Nick and Peter are all smashing actors and I have no doubt they will continue with their successful careers," Mr Park said.
"The introduction of several new characters has already proved a massive hit with the viewers. Natalie's relationship with Kevin has the nation hooked at the moment." " He added: I'm conscious, however, that we need to maintain the balance of well-loved characters, but at the same time I believe that the show continues to benefit from an injection of pacier drama featuring some new faces.
A Granada spokeswoman denied reports that the stars have been sacked and that they were spotted leaving the studios grim faced after a meeting with Mr Park.
"As far as I am aware the decision was arrived at amicably. We can expect some exciting new characters and we are hoping for great new storylines," she said. "October is still a long way away so we don't know how they are planning to be written out."
Sherrie Hewson has been in the show since 1991 while Nick Cochrane has played Andy McDonald since 1989. Peter Armitage returned to the Street in 1995 after a 10-year break.
In a statement issued by Granada, Mr Armitage, who plays Kevin Webster's father Bill, said: "Bill Webster is probably one of the best parts I've ever been asked to play, and I leave him behind with a touch of sadness."