A CANNABIS factory was discovered at a derelict hotel following a gas leak.

Police were called to the Chequers Hotel at West Cliff Road on Tuesday while firefighters stemmed the leak.

They were joined by engineers from SGN at 12.51pm. Crews from Westbourne and Springbourne used breathing apparatus when they entered the premises to isolate the supply and ventilate the property.

A spokesman for the fire service confirmed that the gas leak was started deliberately.

Once there emergency service personnel discovered a cannabis factory. The property was cordoned off while officers investigated.

On Thursday morning officers seized evidence including equipment and plants, a police spokesman said. No arrests have been made.

However officers were not willing to confirm how much evidence had been collected or give an approximate scale of the factory. 

Ward councillor Nick Rose said: “The grandson of a close friend of mine killed himself smoking skunk which was grown in just such a factory. The fact it is happening in West Cliff shows we all need to be really vigilant and report any such suspicious activity to the police.”

MS Residential Ltd applied for planning permission to demolish the existing building and replace it with a four-to-five storey building comprising 27 flats for residential and holiday use with parking, bin and cycle storage, earlier this year. Permission was refused in March.

It was considered that the design was of excessive scale and would have an adverse impact on the character of the area of West Cliff and the Poole Hill conservation area. Concerns were also raised that there would be a loss of privacy to neighbours, over the lack of suitable car parking and that the development would be harmful to a designated Dorset Heathlands special protection area, Ramsar Site and Dorset Heaths special area of conservation.

It is not clear as to when the hotel closed for business but the last review updated to Tripadvisor was made public in October 2015.

The Daily Echo has so far been unable to get hold of the owner.