BBC1 soap EastEnders is to rebuild and expand its exterior set at Elstree. The BBC Executive Board has already approved the terms of the build, and subject to planning permission, the work will start soon, with completion expected in 2018.
EastEnders has been filming on the existing exterior set for nearly 30 years and while the new Albert Square will replicate the appearance of the original, it will be 20 per cent bigger. BBC bosses hope that this will "enable greater editorial ambition and improve working conditions for staff".
A temporary set will be created on site to enable filming to continue while the permanent structure is rebuilt. The BBC is currently exploring options for the long-term use of the temporary set including visitor tours and educational opportunities.
Dominic Treadwell-Collins, executive producer at EastEnders, said: “This is a really exciting project and firmly demonstrates the BBC’s commitment to the future of EastEnders. We have ambitious plans for the show and the new exterior set will help bring those to life and better reflect the East End of London on screen for audiences.
"The bigger and improved set will increase the potential for storylines, increase quality and meet the demands of future technology requirements. Crucially, it will provide a greater sense of scale with more locations for our characters to spend time in, opening up new areas and opportunities that haven’t been possible before – all of which are in the best interest of our viewers.”
Kate Harwood, Head of Drama England, BBC Drama Production, added: “I’m glad the BBC Executive Board has agreed that this project is crucial to investing in the future of EastEnders. The improvements and modernisation are vital to the growth and development of the show. As we approach the show’s 30thanniversary, this is a really exciting opportunity to underpin the future of one of the BBC’s most important programmes.”
It is expected that preparatory work will begin at BBC Elstree later this year, followed by the start of the construction works for the temporary set in early 2015.
The news follows the recent opening of Coronation Street's first new exterior set since 1982. The ITV soap began filming at its new home on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal at the start of 2014.