Coronation Street producer Phil Collinson has responded to claims that the soap’s gay characters are turning off viewers.

Ratings fell from 10.4million in May to an unprecedented 7.4million last week following criticism of gay storylines.

Art critic Brian Sewell, along with several former cast members, complained that there were too many gay characters.

Mr Collinson, writing in The Sun, said the criticism would not have been made if it wasn’t for the fact he is gay.

He wrote: “The accusation is that because I’m gay — and I’ve never made a secret of that – I have an agenda to promote gay storylines and characters. I don’t.

“My agenda is solely to tell brilliant stories. First of all, there are two gay couples on Coronation Street at the moment and they were there before my tenure started.”

Mr Collinson added: “Our audience research shows that Sean, below, a gay character who has been on the show for ten years, is consistently one of the most popular. With Sophie Webster, who is in a lesbian relationship, our research shows her popularity went up after she came out.

“It has nothing to do with her sexuality. It’s because it’s about a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality, and her own love story.

Coronation Street currently has a lesbian couple, a gay couple, a transgender woman and a cross-dressing man.

In response to criticism about ratings, Mr Collinson said:” During the first 22 weeks of this year, we were the number one show in 16 of those weeks. The audience is going nowhere.”