HUNDREDS of cannabis plants were discovered above a hairdresser’s after a blaze started in the building.

Police found between 500 and 600 plants after an electrical fire in the building in Lee Lane, Horwich, at about 9.30am yesterday.

The owner of the Boyz to Menz Barberz, Karen Hugo, raised the alarm when she noticed the burning smell in the shop and called the fire service.

Firefighters called police to break into the flat above the shop and found three rooms full of cannabis plants — the occupant of the flat fled before police arrived.

Ms Hugo, aged 44, said: “I just came in here as usual this morning and all I could smell was smoke, so I called the fire service straight away.

“I’m more upset about the smell it has left in here rather than shocked. I’ve not been able to open for trade this morning. And it’s the second time the main fuse has burnt out — the same thing happened before Christmas.”

The main fuse serving the first and second floor flats, based in the ground floor, had overheated, causing the burning.

Horwich watch manager Glyn Megann said: “The electrical fire was caused by the overheating of the main fuse serving the first and second floor flats — caused by the main meter upstairs being bypassed for the makeshift cannabis farm. The lady who owns the barber’s did exactly the right thing by closing all the doors, leaving the property immediately and calling us.”

Until the plants have been tested, the street value of the crop is unknown but it is estimated to be worth thousands of pounds.

Another shop owner in Lee Lane, who did not want to be named, said: “I am surprised by what they found because we’ve never had any trouble in the three years we’ve been here.

“But we hardly ever see any of the tenants in the other flats other than the ones above our shop. We just keep ourselves to ourselves.”

Police inquiries are continuing.