'It was just filthy all the time': 11 years of living next to squatters, rats and a cannabis factory
PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 August 2019
Squatters, rats and a cannabis factory next door producing £1million of marijuana are just some of the trials and tribulations one Goodmayes homeowner has had to endure over the last 11 years.
Met Police officers discovered more than 1,000 plants across 30 rooms in the abandoned Mayesbrook Clinic, Goodmayes Lane, on Thursday, August 8.
The "sophisticated cannabis farming system" was dismantled by officers and so far, no arrests have been made.
Isma Mir, who moved to the area in 2008, said the building was empty and derelict when they moved in.
"They said they were going to make flats out of it, so we were always hoping for that because there are a lot of squatters," Isma said.
"So when they came last year and started boarding it up, we got really happy thinking they were going to do something about it."
The building was raided during the night by plain clothed officers, Isma said.
"They had an armoured van, officers in plain uniform and there were a good 15 or 16 of them. They were all out and about for a long time," she said.
Before the raid, Isma said they hadn't noticed any particularly unusual activity.
She said: "My sister-in-law used to see a white van pull up outside with a lady and a man, but she never thought anything of it.
"We never heard anything, we never saw anything - it was so quietly done. I couldn't believe it. It was only one or two men who came in and out. It was very quiet.
"Only recently we used to walk past and get a smell of weed, but we didn't think anything of it - we thought it was kids."
Other than police finding the cannabis factory, Isma has also battled with rats in her garden and squatters jumping on her cars to get over the wall into the site.
She said: "We used to see a lot of squatters going in and out with bags.
"We've had to contact the police and the council several times - we've had rats as well in our garden.
"We told them to clean it up but we literally gave up on it.
"When people were squatting, it was such a nuisance. The gates were always broken and people would walk through. Windows were always open. Balls would go over and kids would go over. It was just filthy all the time.
"Every time they put a padlock on, people would pry it open and get in.
"There used to be five or six people and they would jump over our walls and stand on our cars.
"I think the council had the issue of trying to chase the owner, so they would just give up on it."
Last summer, boards went up on the windows and around the perimeter, and the road was dug up to connect the building to the mains, which was promising progress for Isma.
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"We were actually really happy because that was the first time we saw some real movement in the place and we thought they would start work there," she said.
"I hope they knock it down and make use of it because it's been like that for too long."
Land Registry documents show the former health clinic is owned by Essex Estates and Investments Ltd, a property company registered to an address in Ley Street, Ilford.
It was bought for £1.45m in September, 2017.
The building was recently put up for auction with an asking price of more than £3m, offered with planning permission for the "erection of a three-storey, 40 bedroom care home", according to auction documents.
The site was visited in June last year by a Redbridge Council planning officer who confirmed that works had started and excavations had been dug at the back of the building.
Other Goodmayes residents said they were shocked to hear of a cannabis factory on their doorstep.
Paddy O'Connor said: "The person who bought it has to have some responsibility. If a public building is sold, the people who are buying it should go through due diligence, in my opinion.
Sophia Uddin, a parent of children at Mayespark Primary School, said the site was used as a dumping ground.
"I'm really shocked," she said. "But I've seen a few cars coming here and there. I have been suspicious that something was going on.
"I'm pretty scared for the children around there because it's literally next door to the primary school.
"I'm sure parents at the school will be very concerned about it. This is shocking on your doorstep.
"It was literally under your nose, but people wouldn't think you would have the audacity to put a factory right in front of the main road and the school.
"When you walk along Goodmayes Lane, you do smell a lot of weed. It's becoming a daily occurrence. You don't feel safe even going down to the local park."
Kelly Gadhvi, a childminder, has lived in Goodmayes all her life and used to visit the health clinic as a child.
She said: "It's horrific - the fact it's in front of a school. How can nobody have seen?
"The people who own the building - how can they not know? If you've bought a building and even you can't afford to renovate it, surely you would still keep an eye on what you've invested your money in. Why are they not making sure it's secure? How can it go from being a derelict building to having 30 rooms with cannabis growing?
"Because cannabis has become so socially acceptable, nobody bats an eyelid. But when something catastrophic happens like this around the corner, you think, what is going on?
"It doesn't look good on the school, it doesn't look good on the borough and it doesn't look good on the police.
" You couldn't get any closer to children.
"Within this small area, there have been three cannabis factories in the last 10 years. How many more are there that we don't know about?
"It's quite sad. Three generations of my family are from Goodmayes and to see the decline with house prices up and the area going down is really sad."