Big Brother star Brian Belo is suing ITV for £4m over claims that the channel stole the idea for The Only Way Is Essex from him.

The award-winning reality series may be pulled after it was revealed this week that Belo had taken ITV to court over the allegations.

Belo, 24 issued a high court summons to claim that he developed the idea for the show in 2007. He said he created a pilot episode called Totally Essex.

The fly-on-the-wall show was based on real-life characters who in Essex, he said.

In the four-minute promo for Totally Essex, which was created by Belo and co-claimants Sassy Films and Massive TV, TOWIE stars including Amy Childs, Mark Wright, Sam Faiers and Kirk Norcross a shown in a format similar to one employed in the ITV show.

Belo claims that he pitched the idea to production company Lime Pictures, which took the concept and renamed it The Only Way Is Essex.

In his writ, he alleges infringement of copyright and breach of confidence by ITV and producer Lime Pictures. Both firms deny the claims.

The Essex lad wants an injunction stopping ITV from screening TOWIE , which is set to return for a fifth series on 15 April, until he, Sassy Films and Massive TV give the channel permission for it to air.

In a joint statement, the defendants said: "The Only Way is Essex is an original concept created and developed by an award-winning team at Lime Pictures.

"Belo's claim against Lime and ITV is without foundation and will be vigorously defended.

"The creative team at Lime Pictures is very proud of TOWIE, and the notion that it was not entirely their own work is a serious allegation which is completely refuted."