A HIGHLY-SOPHISTICATED cannabis factory was last week discovered in the heart of Chard town centre.

The alarm was raised at just before 7.30pm on Thursday when two fire crews from Chard Fire Station were called to reports of a blaze within a rented industrial unit in East Street.

The fire and damage was contained to electrical equipment including a computer and printer and it was out by the time officers attended.

The incident had been caused by a sudden electrical surge and Western Power engineers were called to the scene to isolate the power to the building.

But on investigation it was discovered that the industrial unit was being used as a cannabis factory and some 60 plants were found inside.

PC Nick Cowlam, of Avon and Somerset Police, said that cannabis factory operations needed huge sources of electricity to power the sophisticated lighting and hydroponic systems which enable the plants to grow quickly.

"It's not unusual for there to be sudden power surges when cannabis factories are operating," he told The News on Friday morning.

"This was an expensive and professional set-up and they obviously knew what they were doing.

"There are probably about 60 cannabis plants and a hydroponic system, but I wouldn't like to say what sort of street value the plants would have, they are only young plants."

A police support unit arrived from Bristol later on Friday and dismantled the cannabis factory and seized the plants and associated equipment.

PC Cowlam was quick to stress, however, that the owners of the industrial unit, which is part of what is better known as the Old Telephone Exchange, had no knowledge of what had been going on.

The owners did not wish to comment when asked by The News.

A police spokesman said this morning that a 29-year-old Taunton man had been arrested on suspicion of cultivating cannabis. He has been granted police bail pending further enquiries.