EXCLUSIVE: The BBC loves a spy drama from The Night Manager to London Spy and Phoebe Waller-Bridge acquisition Killing Eve. It is now working up a story about one of the most important Soviet spies of the 20th century.

The British public broadcaster is developing a drama based on David Burke’s book The Spy Who Came In From The Co-Op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage.

Produced by Patrick Melrose producer Two Cities Television and Water and Power Productions, the company behind Sky police comedy Code 404, the series is being written by Cuffs, Tiger Aspect’s BBC One police drama, and Prisoners’ Wives writer Julie Gearey. The project has received a script commission from the broadcaster.

The Spy Who Came In From The Co-Op is the story of wartime intelligence, super-power relations and spies and their handlers – seen through the experience of Norwood. The title comes from a report in The Times newspaper from 1999 after Norwood’s work was revealed, but British authorities decided at 87 she was too old to prosecute. Norwood had helped shorten the Soviet Union’s atomic bomb project by up to five years.

She was a member of one of a communist spy networks in Britain, who by guaranteeing those weapons of mass destruction threw down a challenge to America as sole superpower in the post-Second World War era. Norwood started spying in 1932, when she worked for the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association, which played a key role in Britain’s atomic research. The British government, which believed she was a more valuable asset for the KGB than the Cambridge Spy Ring, had discovered her allegiances in 1992 when Vasili Mitrokhin, the first chief directorate of the KGB, defected to the UK. She died in 2005 aged 93.

Author David Burke is a historian of intelligence and international relations and previously wrote The Lawn Road Flats: Spies, Writers and Artists.

The Spy Who Came In From The Co-Op is the latest project for Two Cities Television, the BBC Studios-backed drama produced which was established by Michael Jackson, the former President of Programming at USA Entertainment, Chairman of Universal Television and President of Programming for IAC, and Wall to Wall founder Alex Graham. Line of Duty and The Fall commissioner Stephen Wright is Creative Director at the business, which is also developing a TV series based on Michael Wolff’s Donald Trump epic Fire and Fury.