Four people have admitted running a large-scale cannabis cultivation near Wickford have been jailed.

On Thursday, September 21 of last year, officers carried out a warrant at Oak Tree Farm in Burnham Road, Battlesbridge.

Chelmsford Community Policing Team executed the warrant with assistance from Force Support Unit officers and found more than 1,000 cannabis plants.

The group had been renting the property for a number of months, and the estimated street value of the plants was around £1m.

To gain access to the property, officers had to cut through a chain on a metal gate which led to two wooden chalets and a large barn, and then onto two further wooden gates. It was after this, that they found eight large poly tunnels.

As officers approached the chalets they could smell cannabis and a search of the location was carried out.

When officers accessed the area where the poly tunnels were being used to grow the cannabis plants, the four defendants were found.

Inside six of the poly tunnels, fans and extractor fans were being used to cultivate mature cannabis plants, and there was evidence that two others had also been used.

In total, officers seized 1,191 mature cannabis plants.

Five men were arrested on suspicion of the cultivation of cannabis and then released under investigation before charges were brought in June 2018.

Mark Kendall, 52 of Flint Lane, Newhall, Harlow, was jailed for three years and two months.

He had originally denied the charge when he appeared at Basildon Crown Court on August 14, but later pleaded guilty on September 19.

Three other men sentenced had all admitted the charge on August 14 and were sentenced yesterday, October 29 at Basildon Crown Court.

Mark Lowther, 39 and Richard Lowther, 37, both of Sunnydene Avenue, London, and 34-year-old Michael Paduano of Mountdale Gardens, Leigh-on-Sea, were each jailed for three years.

The men will all have to pay a victim surcharge £170.

Police Constable Claire Forster led the investigation.

She said: “We’ve now seen four people brought to justice for their part a highly organised and brazen drug growing operation.

“This was a large-scale sophisticated set up using poly tunnels and when we got to the premises on that day last year it was quite clear what we’d found.

"There was no lack of evidence, including an old barn which had been converted into a drying room with heaters and fans.

“There were around 30 rows of string running from one side of the building to the other with cannabis hanging out to dry.

"This amounted to in excess of 50 kilos of drying cannabis, in addition to the plants with an estimated street value in the region of £1m.

“We’ve ensured that there will be no profits from the sale of these drugs lining the pockets of anyone.

“The message is clear - just because you think you are hiding away, it doesn’t mean we don’t know where you are.

“The four sentenced today had been living in accommodation at Oak Tree Farm while they managed their operation.

"They will now have plenty of time to reflect on their wasted efforts to profit from the production of illegal drugs.”