A farmer controversially paid almost £1m of public money to stop using his land to raise pigs has ceased the practice, council officers have said.

But, while farmer James Daniels has been compensated with the cash - to unlock the building of thousands of new homes - nearby fields are still home to pigs.

Mr Daniels was paid by Norfolk Environmental Credits - a collaboration between Breckland Council, Broadland District Council, North Norfolk Council and South Norfolk Council - to not have pigs on land off Markshall Farm Road, near Caistor St Edmund.

A farmer was paid almost £1m in a deal to stop farming pigsA farmer was paid almost £1m in a deal to stop farming pigs (Image: Denise Bradley)

The highly unusual deal, the first of its kind in the country, was part of a move to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into Norfolk's waterways, as council officers looked to end a limbo blocking house building.

The council-owned, not-for-profit company, agreed the deal because the pigs on the farm, either side of the A47 bypass to the south of Norwich, were causing harmful nutrients to run into the Tas and Yare rivers.

Officials said by closing it down, the reduction in pollution meant they would be able to grant permission for 5,000 homes elsewhere in the county.

EDP reader Trevor Lewis, a former South Norfolk councillor, sent a letter and photograph, published in this newspaper, in which he said he believed the land was still being used for pig farming.

But a spokesman for South Norfolk Council said those animals were on a neighbouring field on Markshall Farm Road, owned by a different farmer.

The spokesman said the use of that land did not affect the waterways in the same way as the fields where the compensation deal was agreed.


What is nutrient neutrality?

A 2022 directive from government advisors Natural England meant councils were stopped from granting planning permission for housing within catchment areas of the River Wensum and the Broads.

Nutrient neutrality rules aim to protect the Norfolk broadsNutrient neutrality rules aim to protect the Norfolk broads (Image: Mike Page)

That was because of concerns nutrients created by development could go into waterways and harm species.

READ MORE: Millions for Norfolk homes stalled by nutrient neutrality

Councils were told developments had to prove they would not lead to an increase in phosphate or nutrient run-off.

Or, if they would, then measures would be needed to ensure the impact was offset - achieving so-called 'nutrient neutrality' - which is why Norfolk Environmental Credits was set up and the farmer compensated.