Lynda La Plante and Sophie Balhetchet's Cougar Films has struck a three-way development deal with the UK Film Council and tax financier Ingenious Media, it was announced today.

The deal will cover development on an initial slate of projects, including a new horror film from My Little Eye writer David Hilton titled @. Also in the works is a medical thriller titled Reputation by Patriot Games writer Peter Iliff and director Stephen Hopkins, who is currently filming The Life & Death Of Peter Sellers.

"This fund allows us to develop ambitious, genre-based projects with top writing and directing talent," said Balhetchet. "There appears to be a market need for fully developed, commercially-oriented projects that can attract international financing and talent. This fund gives us the much needed time and resources to acquire rights and hone the screenplays".

Other projects in the deal see new writing duo Matt Harvey and Dominic Morgan adapting Matt Dickinson's Antarctic thriller Black Ice. La Plante, one of the UK's leading TV writers, is working on a true life crime drama about Australian femme fatale Jean Lee. "I love this story of a woman drawn like a moth to the flame to the wrong men" says La Plante. "In Jean Lee's case she dies for it and was hanged in 1951."

The deal, brokered by Balhetchet for Cougar Films, Duncan Reid for Ingenious and Jenny Borgars for the UK Film Council, effectively replaces Cougar's first-look partnership with Signpost Films. The parties intend the arrangement to extend beyond the first group of projects.

Borgars, who heads the Film Council's development fund, commented: "The UK Film Council is increasingly aiming to convert development to production. Cougar's market-focused strategy, combined with private equity backing, indicates good conversion odds."

The deal marks a move into funding development for Ingenious, which has become one of the UK's leading tax financiers by offering a third of production budgets outside the traditional Section 48 mechanism.

"Cougar Films is clearly a magnet to talent and we welcome the opportunity to work with Lynda and Sophie and build on their relationship with UK Film Council," said Reid. "However, this deal is very much a pilot initiative - a speculative toe in the development waters."

Other Cougar titles include a partnership with Fragile Films to produce Click, a romantic comedy starring Thandie Newton that is slated to start shooting this autumn. Ol Parker is directing. La Plante has also just delivered the screenplay for Crossing Over, a spin on her police TV thriller that is billed as a supernatural Prime Suspect.