The owners of South Essex Garden Megacentre, whose flagship complex just off the A127 is one of the biggest garden centres in the United Kingdom, are currently in police custody after an armed raid this morning uncovered a staggering 20,000 cannabis plants – the officer in charge of the raid confirmed that the entire crop was only a few days away from being picked.

Lt. Chief Deputy Det. Insp. Michael Green confirmed the haul to a Southend News Network reporter that is said to be worth more than £2m. He said: ‘The owners of South Essex Garden Megacentre thought that they had the perfect cover story as nobody would suspect plants being grown at a garden centre – a football-pitch sized domed structure with signs up saying ‘Top Secret Tomatoes For 2016 – Authorised Staff Only.’ However, after we received a tip-off from a disgruntled member of staff, we made the decision to perform the raid and gather this record haul that will be kept off the streets of Essex.’

Concerns were originally raised about the site in December 2015 when a small fire that started in the adjacent electrical room sent a cloud of smoke over the surrounding area and both Pizza Hut and Dominos reported a sudden 900% spike in orders from local homes. When a team from the local fire safety board arrived to inspect the premises, armed with a warrant from the local magistrate’s court, they were told that they wouldn’t be allowed to inspect the huge dome as the site owner had misplaced the key. No further action was taken.

A few days later, representatives from the National Grid arrived at the site as part of an investigation into frequent 4-hour blackouts across the county, and a survey found that the business was consuming 87% of all electricity supplied within a 50-mile radius. Evidence of meter tampering was also found, with Doris Creampuff of neighbouring café ‘Doris’s Tea Rooms’ complaining that she had received a £3.8m electricity bill from nPower.

In another astonishing error by local investigators, frequent orders to Southend Hydroponics Warehouse were missed, with the owner Barry ‘Redeye’ Bongerton thinking nothing of the £900,000 of orders for light bulbs and other equipment per month.

We put these concerns to Lt. Chief Deputy Det. Insp. Michael Green about how all of these mistakes were missed, and he admitted that lessons needed to be learnt from this case. He also added that police resources have been stretched in recent months due to teething issues with the introduction of PCSO cats in Southend town centre.