Casualty will start filming in south Wales in 2011
Filming of BBC drama Casualty is to move from Bristol to the Cardiff area, the BBC has confirmed.
The decision is part of a BBC strategy to increase network TV production from the UK nations and regions.
There has been strong opposition to the move in Bristol. A local newspaper ran a campaign to keep Casualty in the city where it has been filmed for 20 years.
Casualty will join a growing stable of network drama produced in Wales, including Doctor Who and Torchwood.
The BBC said it was anticipated that Casualty would start filming in Wales in 2011.
The new location for Casualty is dependent on further value for money evaluations, ensuring maximum benefit for licence payers. The decision will be announced later in the year.
BBC Wales controller Menna Richards said the announcement placed BBC Wales at the heart of BBC drama network production.
It will build on the enormous success of drama from Wales and, more broadly, will accelerate the development of the creative sector there
Note sent to Casualty staff
"We have already established a first-class drama production base in Wales, and Casualty provides a springboard for further creative and talent development," she said.
"We look forward to working with the cast and crew to ensure Casualty builds on its enormous success and are delighted that John Yorke, BBC controller, drama production and new talent, will continue to lead the show.
"We hope that today's announcement will provide a catalyst for further growth."
A note to Casualty staff on the decision said the BBC believed "that moving Casualty would play a significant part in fulfilling our commitment to building a creatively sustainable centre of excellence for drama in Wales.
"It will build on the enormous success of drama from Wales and, more broadly, will accelerate the development of the creative sector there."
However, Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, who campaigned to keep the medical drama in the city, called the decision disappointing.
The Natural History Unit is not enough to sustain all the jobs Casualty supplies
Kerry McCarthy MP
"It is not a surprise in that we were more or less led to believe the decision had already been made," she said.
"Now we need assurances from the BBC that they will be keeping some production in Bristol because the Natural History Unit is not enough to sustain all the jobs Casualty supplies.
"We want to meet with the BBC as soon as possible because particularly in the current economic climate, people are worried about their jobs."
Ms McCarthy said some of the outside scenes shot in Casualty were set against well-known landmarks like the Clifton suspension bridge and asked whether it would now become a "Welsh" programme.
"This is part of the BBC's out of London strategy but other productions could have been moved to Cardiff," she said.
On the map
While some estimates say the show generates £10m for the local economy in Bristol, others put the figure higher.
Regional creative and media agency South West Screen said Casualty contributed £25m to the local economy, with £13m directly from the show's production budget. It said it was "very disappointed" by the decision.
BBC Wales head of drama Piers Wenger said Casualty was a core part of a continuing strategy to develop BBC Wales as a centre of creative excellence in drama spearheaded by the success of Doctor Who.
"Having such an established and respected series made in Wales will build on the success of other BBC Wales drama productions such as Pobol y Cwm, Merlin and Torchwood," he said.
"It puts Wales firmly on the map as one the most creative production bases outside of London."
Cardiff council leader Rodney Berman said: "Through the undoubted success of Doctor Who and Torchwood, BBC Wales has ably proved its ability to take a stronger role in BBC production across the UK and this is a firm vote of confidence from the BBC's management.
"Moving Casualty here will put us more firmly on the map and create expanded job opportunities locally within the creative media sector."
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