Acclaimed BBC1 police drama Happy Valley will not be returning until the end of 2018, executive producer Nicola Shindler revealed today.

Shindler, whose company Red Productions makes the drama, said Happy Valley writer Sally Wainwright is working on another project for BBC1, which partly explains the delay in bringing the show back.

She wouldn’t disclose any new details about the series, but did reveal at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch on Wednesday that there were also creative reasons for waiting on a third series of Happy Valley.

Shindler also said that Sarah Lancashire was keen to reprise her role as Sergeant Catherine Cawood despite rumours that she had been unenthusiastic about a return.

“We are working on a new idea for Sally for BBC1 which will be next year so the earliest Happy Valley would be would be towards the end of 2018, I would suspect.

“She won’t write the [Happy Valley] scripts for some time but Sally’s determined to do it, Sarah’s determined to do it.”

Shindler suggested that the third series of Happy Valley would need to wait to allow the character of Ryan to grow up. The young son of Catherine's daughter was conceived by a rape perpetrated by the chief villain Royce, played by James Norton.

“Sally is thinking about a story and the story she is thinking about literally needs time. Because if you look at the characters that are left, there is Sarah, there is James Norton and there is a young boy, who the minute he turns into a teenager it becomes a much more interesting story.

"She doesn’t know what the story is yet. She is mulling it in her head but we are thinking about giving it a bit of space in story terms.”