WATCH: Inside the £1m cannabis factory discovered at a Norfolk industrial estate
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
Police have uncovered and dismantled a £1m cannabis factory hidden behind closed doors at an industrial estate.
Officers seized more than 1,000 cannabis plants as they disassembled an "extremely professional" set-up inside a two-storey building in Lenwade, between Norwich and Fakenham.
The operation began on Wednesday with police and forensics teams descending on the estate, which lies off the A1067 Norwich Road.
Nine people were arrested and have been charged and are due to appear before Norwich magistrates on Thursday morning.
As her colleagues bagged up a seemingly endless stockpile of plants - some worth more than £500 each - Sgt Angie Youd said the haul was among the largest unearthed by the force in recent years.
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"I've been a police officer for 24 years and certainly this is the biggest set-up I've experienced and dealt with," said Sgt Youd, part of the Safer Neighbourhood Team for Broadland.
"This isn't an amateur operation. It's the work of people who have spent a lot of time planning this.
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"There's a lot of equipment in there, the rooms have been sealed up and we've got a lot of plants which have been cultivated in an extremely professional manner - so it's definitely a professional operation.
"For me, looking at the size of the building and the intelligence we had, I expected it to be a fairly substantial set-up. It's away from residential areas, so those responsible were pretty much able to get on with their business without being interrupted."
In spite of its size, Wednesday's seven-figure find was far from the first large-scale drugs discovery in the region in recent months.
Earlier this year, the quiet village of Redgrave, near Diss, was left shocked following the discovery of more than 800 cannabis plants with a potential street value of around £1m.
And, in December last year, Felthorpe became a hive of police activity when two sophisticated factories were uncovered a stone's throw apart within the space of 48 hours.
Having begun the clear-out in Lenwade on Wednesday, police continued excavating the premises long into the early hours of Thursday morning.
Details on the ongoing raid could not be revealed until Thursday due to its suspected links to a wider organised crime network.
Sgt Toby Gosden, of the North Norfolk SNT, gave insight into the inner workings of the police operation.
"We've had a few significant finds over the last few years but this is a particularly large factory," he said. "There are just over 1,000 plants worth a considerable amount of money.
"The police operation has been about seizing evidence, first and foremost, to try and gain intelligence as to who is responsible for the set-up.
"Generally on the ground you'll get gardeners who are living on the premises and, above them, you'll get the organised crime groups who rent the premises and ship the goods out afterwards.
"This is about clearing the scene as much as we can, as quickly as we can. The plants will go to a secure store and the rest of the equipment is being completely dismantled."