Sheridan Smith had been tipped to star in the controversial drama

Sheridan Smith had been tipped to star in the controversial drama

After pausing work on a television drama based on the Shannon Matthews kidnap hoax, the BBC has now confirmed it will go ahead.

The Dewsbury-focussed project was put on hold last year over fears that the resulting public anger could have an impact on the BBC’s licence fee negotiations.

But now the programme, called The Moorside Project, is to go ahead but will revolve around the women who led the search for Shannon instead of the perpetrators.

Schoolgirl Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in Dewsbury in February 2008.

She was discovered 24 days later after a huge police hunt at the home of her stepfather’s uncle, Michael Donovan, less than a mile away, where she had been imprisoned as part of a plan he and mother Karen Matthews hatched to claim a £50,000 reward offered by a national newspaper.

Matthews and Donovan were both jailed for eight years but were released after serving half their sentences.

Speaking to the Media Guardian, the BBC revealed that the two-part factual drama for BBC1, will now focus on the community rather than the couple.

BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore said : “Drama has the ability to tackle sensitive subjects from different perspectives and consider the impact of a crime rather than the crime itself. This was an extraordinary story of our time that rocked a community and thrust it under the media spotlight.

“As a nation, we only ever saw it from one perspective and I hope this drama will capture what it was like to be at the centre of that community; how they responded and lived through it. On BBC One it’s important to bring human stories to life and allow the audience to come to their own conclusions.”