CANNABIS worth at least £500,000 has been seized from what police say is the biggest farm they have seen in South Tyneside.
Using a search warrant, they raided a three-storey terraced house in Harton Village, South Shields, yesterday.
Inside the five-bedroom property – barely 250 yards from Harton Police Station - officers found two floors full of fully-grown cannabis plants, and all the equipment to grow them, and a nursery with smaller plants was found in the basement.
A 19-year-old Vietnamese man was arrested after being found on the ground-floor of the building, which was used as a living area and storage room for fertiliser and other drug paraphernalia.
He was still being questioned by police last night.
Sergeant Shaun Connolly, of the East Shields Neighbourhood Policing team, said it was the most sophisticated and biggest cannabis farm he had seen in the borough in 30 years on the beat.
He added: “The top two floors are full of plants that are ready to be harvested, with another crop of smaller plants in the basement.
“What there is in the house at the minute is worth at least £500,000 – but once this was taken away another crop would replace it, so it’s impossible to say just how much cannabis could have been grown in the house if we had not found the farm.
“It is the biggest I have seen in 30 years in the job.”
Police found the farm after tip-offs from members of the public.
The officers moved in yesterday morning from the back lane.
Once close-up they realised the windows were all blacked out and the back door had a padlock on the outside.
Sgt Connolly added: “The padlock was unusual, but it was unlocked so we thought someone would be inside.
“We forced entry and the smell hit us straight away.
“A man was inside and he was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the cultivation of cannabis.
“There was a huge amount of wiring and lamps set up.
“It did not look like a set up that was for local distribution, this could go further than that.”
The house was being rented out by a private landlord.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101.