A LARGE-scale cannabis farm has been discovered underground at the historic Drakelow Tunnels in Wolverley.

Officers seized more than 400 cannabis plants while executing a search warrant at around 9am this morning at the network of tunnels between Kinver and Wolverley.

The street value of the drugs has been initially estimated at around £650,000.

The warrant was obtained under the Misuse of Drugs Act and the operation involved around 30 police officers and staff from West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police, including dog handlers.

Officers also found a network of hydroponic equipment including heating, lighting and ventilation fans. The plants were in various stages of growth and cultivation.

Earlier officers executed an associated search warrant in a dawn swoop on an address in Kidderminster where a 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of money laundering and being concerned in the production and supply of controlled drugs. A quantity of cash was also seized at the property.

Drakelow Tunnels were used to manufacture machine parts during the Second World War and in the late 1950s it was designated by the Home Office as a regional seat of government in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War.

The 285,000sq ft network of tunnels stretch for about three miles and during the 50s were also used by the Ministry of Supply for storage. Much of the original equipment is still in situ. More recently plans were revealed by the site’s owners to transform the tunnels into a museum.

North Worcestershire Superintendent Kevin Purcell said that officers had been briefed in advance on the historic nature of the site and that had been reflected in the way the operation had been carried out. The aim had been to cause as little disturbance as possible within the complex.

The health and safety aspects of the operation had also presented significant challenges due to the sprawling nature of the tunnel system and the need to search over a wide area.

Supt Purcell said: “The operation has been mounted to tackle the illegal production and supply of controlled drugs which is linked to acquisitive crime such as theft, burglary and shoplifting. This can cause serious harm in our communities.

“While executing the warrant at Drakelow Tunnels we discovered a large and sophisticated cannabis growing operation and although the plants will need to be tested it would appear that this seizure has prevented a large quantity of illegal drugs ending up on the streets. That in itself is a very positive outcome.

“While we have made an arrest in connection with this I would stress that this is a dynamic, ongoing investigation and we would very much like to hear from anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity near the tunnels or know anything that could be helpful to our inquiry.”

In September this year Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police launched a new three-year drug strategy designed to make life a misery for dealers while working with partners to steer addicts towards treatment and youngsters away from taking them.

Supt Purcell added: “The warrants executed today are a perfect illustration of what we are aiming to do with this strategy.

“A key component is the reduction of supply and demand achieved through the identification and dismantling of trafficking and dealer networks, and the closure of drug factories or farms like the one we have discovered today at Drakelow Tunnels.

“We will continue to execute drugs warrants and other operations in order to disrupt the pushers and suppliers.”

Anyone with information for the police about the production, supply and use of drugs is urged to contact officers at Kidderminster on the non-emergency number 101.

Details may also be left anonymously with the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.