Builder turned home into 300,000 cannabis factory after planners told him it could only be used as a 'leisure facility'Clemens-Cooney, 43, had been pressing council for planning permission 'for years'Told planning officers that house would be used for model railwayJailed for three years after police received tip-off which led to raid
12:31 GMT, 7 December 2012
Leisure time: Shaun Clemens-Cooney, who was behind a 300,000 cannabis factory in Blackburn
A builder converted a newly-built house into a 300,000 cannabis factory – after council planners told him he could only use it as a 'leisure facility.'
Shaun Clemens-Cooney, 43, wanted to build the three-bedroomed detached home at the back of his own 200,000 semi-detached house in Blackburn – but had been refused planning permission three times.
Finally, inspectors agreed he could build the property – but only after he promised he would only use the upper floors for 'leisure purposes', including a playroom for a billiard table and another for a model railway.
Yet after construction boss Clemens-Cooney finished his project, police received a tip-off about the nature of the property's 'leisure facilities.'
During a raid in May last year officers opened the roller shutters of the double garage – and were faced with a plaster board wall behind which they could hear fans whirring away.
They then discovered 600 marijuana plant, being grown in 3,000 pots across all the three floors of the property.
They also found a sophisticated hydroponic irrigation system complete with extraction ducts and discovered Clemens-Cooney had also rigged the electricity supply at his own home to steal 20,000 worth of power to supply light, water and air filtration.
Today Clemens-Cooney, from Blackburn, Lancashire, is starting three years in jail after he was convicted of producing cannabis following a 12-day trial.
Boarded up: Clemens-Cooney blacked out the windows and boarded up the doors to keep his facilities secret
One of his tenants Morgan Redmayne, 44, of Darwen was jailed for two and a half years for cannabis production.
After the case a neighbour, who asked not be named, said: 'Council planners may have told Shaun he could only use the property for leisure purposes but obviously his idea of leisure purposes was far from their minds when they let him build it.
Also jailed: Tenant Morgan Redmayne must serve two and a half years
'The reality was Shaun was pretty cross with the council when it refused him permission and we wouldn't be surprised if he finished the building off with a view to using it as a custom-built cannabis farm.
'He had already started building the house when he was found out, and ordered to submit planning permission but the dispute went on for years and must have cost him a considerable a fortune.
'Maybe he thought growing cannabis was a way of getting back some of his money.'
Clemens-Cooney who is company secretary of Millbrooke Construction in Darwen and owns up to seven properties hit trouble in February 2007, when he was caught trying to build an eighth house on half an acre of land behind his family home without the right permissions.
Over a two year period officials at Blackburn with Darwen Council repeatedly refused planning permission for the property saying it would have a 'dominant, overbearing impact to neighbouring dwellings, to the detriment of residential amenity.'
A report said the proposal would be 'out of character with adjacent properties and the surrounding area in general.'
But in January 2010 Clemens-Cooney
applied again this time saying the detached property would now be a
double garage and games room and offered drawings showing a 'playroom'
and 'model railway room' as well as office space and a utility room.
following the March officials said they would only grant permission for
the property to be completed on condition it would not be used as
He later completed the house and even showed
it off on his company website.
Another neighbour said: 'The property was built about three years ago, and it is quite an eyesore and nobody likes it.
we had no indication that it was a cannabis farm, we never smelt
anything and you couldn't tell it was lit up because the windows were
Out of character: The 'cannabis house' was hidden behind Clemens-Cooney's own house
What officers might have expected to find: Clemens-Cooney told planning officers the upstairs would be used for projects such as a model railway
The neighbour added: 'There was nothing suspicious about it either, no suspicion coming and goings and I kept a pretty good eye on it. I wouldn't say I was shocked when I found out what was going on – more surprised I'd say – but not surprised when I found out it was him.
'There were two fake garage doors at the front and behind that was a breeze block. The windows on the front were all white washed so you could never see in. It took about two days for the police to bring out all the plants.
'We were told there were 600 cannabis plants but there must have been about 3,000 plant pots which in the end were given to the local garden centre.
'The plants were between 6ft and 9ft high and had been being cropped. He must have had a lot of heaters in there too.
'He must have put ducts in there that took out the smell so we could never smell anything because it went out the other way. Even when we were sat out in summer we couldn't smell anything.
'Mr Clemens-Cooney is a well known man around here because of his building background and he owns a lot of houses.
'I always saw him in his overalls and driving a van. He's a real Del Boy.'
Clemens-Cooney's Millbrooke Construction company showcased the house as a residential new build
Last September Clemens-Cooney was caught in a row after claims electricity powering seven houses he built were illegally connected. He and Redmayne both denied drugs charges at Preston Crown Court.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: 'In his back garden, Clemens-Cooney had built a three-bedroom property, albeit the planning permission was limited to a storage structure.
'When the police conducted a raid at the property, they found that it was being used as a cannabis factory, with lights and fans and extraction ducting.
'The electricity for the property was being abstracted from Clemens-Cooney's own house, with a cable running from his house and underground to the property in the rear garden.'
Det Insp Mark Winstanley from Lancashire Police said: 'This was a very large and significant cannabis set-up and I hope this result will reduce the supply of drugs in the local area.
'Cannabis brings upset and misery to our communities and we are determined to work with local residents to tackle the issue. I urge local residents to contact us with any information or concerns about cannabis in their community.'