THREE men have been arrested following the discovery of an £840,000 high-performance car 'chop shop' in East Lancashire.

The men, aged 22, 27 and 30, were arrested this morning at addresses in Robert Street, Ash Tree Grove and Charles Street, all in Nelson.

They were subsequently taken to Burnley Police Station were they were being held on suspicion of conspiring to handle stolen good.

Officers were searching three addresses in the town as part of their investigation, named Operation Tapper.

The arrests stem from the discovery of a number of stolen car parts in 10 shipping containers at a mill in Colne in April last year. They are top end BMW M-Sports, Audis, Mercedes, Volkswagens and some Ford Focus STs.

Police said the parts were from vehicles stolen in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cumbria, Cheshire and North Wales.

Police said a significant amount of cash and a large quantity of suspected class A drugs were found as part of their searches this morning.

Sgt Tim Hitchen, from the Pendle Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "We made the arrests we were looking to make. We have searched the houses and recovered some items that are going to be of value to us in the investigation. We recovered a significant amount of cash at one address. We found a large block of white which we believed is a significant quantity of a controlled drug of Class A.

"Whilst I can't comment across the force, in this department – the neighbourhood team and the task force – there is a lot that goes on behind the scene to deal with organised crime groups. The general public don't always see the results we get until days like this when we do the strikes."

The arrests come on the day Lancashire Police was rated as outstanding for efficiency and good at reducing crime, keeping people safe and protecting vulnerable people from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw, who observed this morning's conspiracy arrests, said: "This operation is trying to disrupt the serious criminal activity that is not just going on in Nelson and Colne but the whole of the North-West. We've just had the announcement from HMIC that Lancashire is outstanding at the way that we use our resources and directing the resources to where they are needed the most.

"These are the kind of operations that with more resources are going to make a huge difference to the people of Lancashire. More money will enable Lancashire Police to be far more pro-active at disrupting some of the activity that has a really serious impact on the residents of Lancashire."