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Police uncover £2m cannabis farm 'the size of a football pitch' in Team Valley

Officers discovered around 3,000 plants. Credit: Northumbria Police

A £2m cannabis farm "the size of a football pitch" has been discovered in Gateshead.

Northumbria Police say a farm containing an estimated 3,000 plants worth about £660 each were discovered in the Team Valley trading estate after a police officer noticed a strong smell.

Community Support Officer Martin Jobling had been on patrol at the Valentine’s Funfair on Team Valley and noticed a strong smell of cannabis. With the help of Acting Inspector Warren Sturrock he identified a warehouse which seemed to be the source of the smell.

Inside they found the plants and a number of people, and arrested three foreign nationals on suspicion of producing a Class B drug with intent to supply.

The plants are believed to be worth around £660 each. Credit: Northumbria Police

This is a sophisticated drug supply operation that may have seen millions of pounds worth of cannabis supplied to dealers across our region.

“This seizure will have put a huge dent in the pockets of the organised crime group responsible but we will not stop here and a criminal investigation is well underway.

“We have arrested three suspected cannabis farmers at the factory and we are now working to establish who is involved in this sophisticated operation.

“This is clearly not a small cannabis farm to help give someone pain relief, this is an industrial-sized farm that is lining the pockets of serious criminals and will not be tolerated.

“Under the banner of Operation Sentinel, our dedicated approach to tackling serious and organised crime, we will continue to work with our partners and engage with communities and proactively target suspects in order to disrupt crime and protect the public.”

“I want to praise Martin who was on patrol at a local funfair and acted on his instinct when he smelt cannabis and knew something wasn’t quite right.

“It shows that community policing has an important role to play in the fight against organised crime and that makes me very proud.

“We will continue to patrol our local communities and engage with residents in our area. If you have information that could help us then pick up the phone and get in touch.”

– Insp Sturrock
Workers and business owners on the Team Valley were Credit: Northumbria Police

Workers and business owners on the Team Valley were "shocked" to see the large-scale police operation, which began on Thursday and continued on to Friday afternoon.

Rajan Jerath, who runs BeBe clothing on the trading estate, saw the operation in progress as he left his office to send some post.

He said: "It's shocking to see it so close to our offices - very alarming.

He added: “We’ve been here 15 years and you get the odd speed camera van but never anything like this.”

Brian Short, who works nearby, said he and his colleagues had seen officers removing "large green plants" and plant pots on Friday morning, after spotting a large amount of police activity there on Thursday night.

The three men arrested are currently in custody, and a criminal investigation is ongoing.

The cannabis was found at a warehouse on the Team Valley trading estate in Gateshead. Credit: Northumbria Police