Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh to leave show

Sad news for Corrie fans - Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Hayley Cropper, is leaving the soap at the end of her current contract.

Street exit: Corrie's Hayley will leave later this year (Credit: ITV)

The actress, who's been in the show for 15 years, will leave at the end of 2013.

Hesmondhalgh said she made the decision to leave to explore new projects following a recent stage role at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre.

She said in a statement: "I've had the most wonderful and happy time in the life changing 15/16 years I've been in Corrie, and I owe so much to the show & the special team that make it happen. The decision to hang up Hayley's red anorak was a tough one, but doing the play at the Royal Exchange last year made me realise that there's life in the old dog yet (!) and that there are other things I want to try.

[Related story: Find out what's coming up in next week's Corrie]

"Whatever happens next I'll always be proudest of lovely Mrs Cropper & in particular what we achieved in changing attitudes to transgender and in portraying possibly the most loving, faithful and steadfast couple in soap history! I'll always be the show's biggest fan."

'Coronation Street' Executive Producer Kieran Roberts added: “Who doesn't love Hayley Cropper? The character's warmth and decency, spiced with a great sense of fun and adventure, have put her at the heart of Coronation Street. We'll be sorry to say farewell to Hayley - and to Julie - but we're planning a screen exit worthy of a one of Coronation Street's best-loved characters.”

Julie Hesmondhalgh made soap history when her character Hayley became the Street's first transexual character back in 1998.

Her touching performance made the character a firm favourite with fans of the soap and her on-screen pairing with actor David Neilson helped make Roy and Hayley one of soapland's most iconic couples.

Producers are working on a dramatic exit plot for her character that viewers will see later this year.

Will you be sad to see Hayley leave the Street? How would you like her to leave? Let us know...

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