POLICE have unearthed a major cannabis growing operation worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in a quiet residential street.
Officers raided the home in Powell Avenue, South Shore, Blackpool, after residents reported a strong stench of the potent drug emanating from the address. More than 200 plants – with a street value of more than £200,000 – were discovered.
The find is one of the largest uncovered on the Fylde coast in recent years and police have launched a major investigation to discover who is behind the set up.
And the community today spoke of their shock at the discovery of the “farm” on their doorstep.
Neighbour Priscilla Barnett, 30, said: “It was a pretty big shock when I realised what was going on because you don’t expect it to happen next door to you.
“And £200,000 is a huge amount. I had my suspicions about what was going on there because they kept coming at different times of the day.
“They have been there two-and-a-half years, so it has been a while, but I thought it was just a group of lads staying there.
“People would come and go but I just left them to it. Some of their behaviour was strange because a van came two or three times and reversed on to the driveway, but I left them to their business.”
Gary Nicholson, 42, and his wife Alison, 39, said they witnessed police finding the drugs.
Mr Nicholson added: “I thought there was something strange about that house. I saw a policeman go to the house with a heat gun but I didn’t have a clue what was going on. You hear of things like this going on all the time in Blackpool but you never expect it to happen on your doorstep.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years and always felt safe, but I’ve seen a lot of things happening on this street.”
Mrs Nicholson said: “If they are not doing it here, they are probably going to be doing it somewhere else. I can’t see what the police can do to stop this happening again because it was a rented property.”
When police raided the premises they found hundreds of plants growing under powerful lights.
Sean Loughran, 61, also a neighbour on Powell Avenue, said he did not expect a cannabis factory to be found so close to his home.
He added: “I came home to see the police there removing the drugs and didn’t know what to think.
“Everytime I’ve seen the men in the house they have been polite, so when I heard what had happened I couldn’t believe it.
“I’m shocked to think it’s happened here because you never know what’s going on. They seemed decent lads but it just goes to show you what can happen.”
Another neighbour Richard Lee, 24, said: “It was obviously a massive den but I never expected that much to be there. They came and went but I never feared for my safety because they weren’t aggressive.”
Another resident of Powell Avenue, who did not wish to be named, said: “I think it’s good they have been found and taken off the streets.
“At one time I would have been shocked at this, but nowadays you can walk around a radius of about three or four miles and find a lot of drug dens.
“I would like to see more protection for people in this area because this shouldn’t be happening.”
Sgt Paul McCurrie, investigating the cannabis farm for Blackpool Police, said: “We are aware of the harm drugs can bring to a community and we will continue to do all we can to remove them from our streets.
“I hope this highlights our determination to act on information from members of the public and I urge anyone who is concerned about drugs being used or produced in their neighbourhood to contact us.”
Anyone with information can contact Blackpool Police on non emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.