A drugs gang who grew enough cannabis plants to make almost £3m right under the noses of Kettering shoppers have been branded "audacious".
About 25 police officers raided the former Gala Bingo hall in High Street at 10.40am this morning (Friday) in a pre-planned operation.
After breaking through the doors they found more than 2,000 mature plants - just weeks away from harvesting and with the potential to make £2.8m over the course of a year.
But the plants, which covered virtually every inch of the former bingo hall, were never more than a stone's throw away from unsuspecting shoppers who passed them every day without noticing.
Sergeant Sean Marshall said: "This is quite a criminally audacious set-up that we've got here, especially in the middle of Kettering town centre.
"The size of the building and the amount of organised effort and work that's gone into setting it up [is huge].
"You can try it and you might think you can get away with it but we will eventually catch up with you and we will come and do what we've done today."
The discovery was one of the biggest one police officer had ever seen but nobody was inside and no arrests were made.
A forensic team were due to visit the bingo hall, which closed last year, this afternoon to examine the property.
The plants would then be cut from their roots, bagged up and taken away for destruction.
The sophisticated hydroponics system will also be destroyed.
Sgt Marshall added: "The organisers and the people who make the money from this don't normally get their hands dirty.
"It's normally vulnerable people that they target to set up the place and then keep it running.
"Many people may have walked through the town centre thinking they have walked past somebody who has been smoking a joint or thought there might have been something bigger elsewhere.
"If you've got any information or any suspicions of criminal behaviour or activity please report it to the police."
The bingo hall was being used as a cannabis farm as recently as February and that investigation is ongoing.
It had recently been leased but thermal imaging showed it to be far warmer than it should have been for a supposedly empty property.
Neighbours said they had smelt cannabis in recent months.