A MONTH-long crackdown on drug factories in Lancashire has been launched.

Officers from the county have raided 485 cannabis farms and seized more than £8million of the drug in the past 12 months.

The rise in drugs factories is matched by a rise in smaller farms often in rented properties and linked to organised crime gangs.

Det Supt John Lyons said: “Cannabis is not the harmless drug it is often perceived to be and is the most used illegal drug in the UK.

“An increasing number of people who grow cannabis are directly funding dangerous, organised criminal gangs.

“These gangs are often responsible for gun crime, violence and intimidation across the North West.”

Last year police found a cannabis factory worth £1million in a disused mill in Brook Street, Nelson.

In that raid alone, more than 1,400 plants were seized by police after they received a tip-off from residents who could smell a strong odour coming from the building.

In another high profile case burglars broke into a Burnley house only to discover it was being used as a £400,000 skunk cannabis farm.

In April 2010, neighbours called police after hearing a disturbance at a house, in Palatine Square, in the Piccadilly area of the town.

When officers arrived they discovered more than 500 plants. In Lancashire, in just over a year, 20,603 plants have been found in 485 factories.

The figures come from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan), and Lancashire police.

There will be a number of ‘strike days’ and officers are working with utility companies, garden centres, DIY stores, local authorities, fire services and the Royal Mail to help them to spot the signs equipment is being bought and cannabis is being grown.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.