A CAR repair boss set up a potential £24,000 cannabis farm in an old lift shaft at Vine Mill in Oswaldtwistle.

Nicholas Whittaker, 50, had 44 mature plants growing in zipped-together tents in an underground service area, as well as 54 seedlings and had learned how to do it on the internet.

He was caught after workmen came across the find and was to tell police he had been a burglary victim six months before, had suffered financially and someone suggested it would be a way out of his problems.

Burnley Crown Court was told Whittaker, said to have no relevant convictions, was now facing a proceeds of crime hearing.

The defendant, of Sussex Close, Church, had admitted producing cannabis and had been committed for sentence by magistrates.

He was given 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, with 180 hours unpaid work.

Mark Lamberty, prosecuting, said that the workmen found the cannabis farm on January 7.


The police were notified and when they went there on January 8, it was apparent overnight that somebody had tried to board the farm up.

As well as the plants and seedlings, some cannabis had been hung out to dry. The potential yield of the operation was 2,457 grams of cannabis bush, with a wholesale value just over £10,000.

Mr Lamberty said the farm had a lighting system, two transformers and electric fans.

Police inquires took officers to the defendant, who has a car repair business in Oswaldtwistle.

He was immediately frank and was equally frank when questioned. He said he had grown the plants in the underground service shaft with equipment off the internet and nobody else assisted him.

The defendant told officers he tended the plants himself while working at the units, had rented a garage for 12 months and just used the unit for things he didn't want.

The prosecutor told the court Whittaker said he had been burgled.

He was also entirely frank about a previous crop, said it was of poor quality and he had sold it to a third party for £3,000. The defendant apologised for his actions.