Factual indie Lion Television is pumping£500,000 into the launch of a new drama division and has poached veteran drama producer Gillian McNeill and two EastEnders scriptwriters to head the unit.

Managing

Factual indie Lion Television is pumping£500,000 into the launch of a new drama division and has poached veteran drama producer Gillian McNeill and two EastEnders scriptwriters to head the unit.

Managing director Nick Catliff told Broadcast the new division initially plans to make quality, contemporary dramas and returning series. He added that Lion's expansion into drama forms an integral part of the indie's business plan. 'We're looking forward to branching out from the overcrowded world of factual TV,' he said.

McNeill, who becomes Lion's head of drama, worked for BBC drama for 16 years on a raft of programmes including Vanity Fair, Bleak House, Barchester Chronicles, EastEnders and Casualty. She also produced Gold for ITV and is currently producing TalkBack's new Channel 4 drama, Sword of Honour.

EastEnders' chief story editor Gabbie Asher joins as head of drama development after nearly two years with the soap. Her previous roles include working for BBC comedy and BBC drama series and singles. EastEnders' script editor Sara Johnson joins with the same title, after 18 months on the BBC 1 drama.

She was previously in charge of script development for Channel 5 drama.

Asher and Johnson start work later this month, while McNeill is expected to start after her work with Sword of Honour is completed later in the autumn.