COMMUNITY leaders have spoken of their shock after police uncovered a huge cannabis factory with plants worth more than half a million pounds.

The factory in Nelson is believed to have been used by an organised criminal gang to manufacture the drug in industrial quantities.

Officers executed a Misuse of Drugs Act warrant at the mill premises on Maurice Street on Wednesday morning where they found the sophisticated set up containing more than 1,000 plants.

The plants were in numerous rooms and in different stages of growth, with the estimated street value of the drugs around £570,000.

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, Labour leader of Pendle council, congratulated police and the community on the raid and described drugs as a ‘reoccurring scourge on our society’.

Cllr Iqbal said: “I would like to congratulate the police and the community for this significant raid.

“Drugs are a reoccurring scourge on our society and I’d welcome the action by the police.

“I wholeheartedly support their efforts to eradicate drugs in Pendle.”

Cllr Joe Cooney, leader of the Pendle Conservatives, said the raid showed the scale of the drugs problem in Pendle.

Cllr Cooney said: “It’s good news that these drugs are off our streets and police have caught those responsible for farming the cannabis.

“I hope it will send a message to other drug gangs that they will get caught.

“This raid does show the scale of the drugs problem in Pendle and it’s most likely the tip of the iceberg.”

Pendle's MP Andrew Stephenson said: "I would congratulate the police on conducting the raid and successfully seizing such a large quantity of drugs.

"Drugs are a real concern for many residents in Pendle, as we do have a recurring drug problem and numerous drugs raids have been conducted in drugs factories and other drugs related premises.

"So we need an effort from police across the board to eradicate this drugs problem from our streets and neighbourhoods."

The cannabis factory was so sophisticated that vinegar and fabric conditioner had even been used in the venting system to try to mask the smell of the cannabis.

There was nobody located on the premises, but there was evidence to suggest people have been living on site relatively recently and efforts are on-going to trace them and those who orchestrated the set-up.

Detective Inspector Vinny De Curtis, of East CID, said: “The actions of officers yesterday (Wednesday) took a large amount of planning and teamwork, and I am very pleased that it has been so successful.

“This was a huge and extremely sophisticated set-up and I am delighted that we have been able to take such a large amount of illicit drugs off the streets of Lancashire before they are able to reach vulnerable people within our communities.

“We will continue to tackle the production and supply of illegal drugs but we need the help of our communities and I would encourage anyone who has anyone information to come forward and contact police so that we can take action.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.