Pauline Quirke becomes the latest ''Emmerdale'' cast member to leave the soap

Pauline Quirke has become the latest in a line of Emmerdale cast members to announce her departure from the ITV1 soap. The legendary comedy actress best known for her role in Birds Of A Feather plays Hazel Rhodes on the show but she has revealed that she is to leave at the end of her current contract.

The actress has reportedly came to the decision to exit the soap so she can work on a Birds Of A Feather stage show which is expected to start touring in 2012. Speaking to What's On TV, Quirke quipped: ''They very kindly asked me to stay until Christmas. And then next year, I'm going to be doing a tour of Birds Of A Feather - we're going to bring Birds Of A Feather back to the stage!''

She continued: ''We thought it was about time we resurrected us three old girls, so we'll be doing a tour next spring. But I'm certainly going to be on the Woolpack steps until this Christmas.'' Pauline starred alongside Lesley Joseph and Linda Robson on the classic BBC sitcom from 1989 until 1998.

A spokesperson for the ITV soap which is set in Yorkshire told Digital Spy: ''Pauline was originally due to appear for a year but extended her contact to the end of 2011, so there are many more months of drama to come involving Hazel.''

Hazel is currently at the centre of a controversial Euthanasia storyline as she and her son Jackson's (Marc Silcock's) boyfriend Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller) are planning to help Jackson who is disabled from the neck down to take his own life so he doesn't have to suffer any longer.

Pauline is the latest in a long line of Emmerdale cast members to announce her exit, others who have recently done so include Suzanne Shaw, who plays Eve Jenson, Frank Kelly who plays Dermot Macey and Adele Silva who plays Kelly Windsor.