Work has begun on a giant £50m wind farm on moorland near Rochdale.
The wind farm at Scout Moor and Knowl Moor will have 26 turbines stretching nearly two miles across the moor and be visible from the far side of Manchester.
The highly-controversial project saw a protest group formed to fight the plans, with the group attracting celebrity support from the likes of TV botanist David Bellamy.
Although the turbines will not arrive on the site on the border of Rochdale and Rossendale for another 12 months, work has begun to build access roads and prepare the ground.
Richard Brewster, of Peel Holdings, the company behind the project, said: “We are committed to developing clean and renewable sources of energy for the region and are pleased the work is finally underway.
“We are aware some local residents have concerns, but we aim to ensure disruption during construction and the operational life of the wind farm is minimal.
“As this will be one of the largest onshore wind farms in the country, the north west can be seen to be doing its bit to tackle climate change.”
The wind farm is due to begin operating in the summer of next year and it will have a total capacity of about 65 mega watts – enough electricity to supply about 40,000 homes.
It is also claimed it will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power stations by 166,000 tonnes each year.
But protesters remain unconvinced. Ann Metcalf, of the Friends of Scout Moor, said: “It’s a very sad day. I still believe this is not the solution to climate change.
“It would have been far better to invest the money into ways of saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.
“The developers are destroying acres of land including peat bogs, natural habitats and streams.
“I just hope in 10 years we’re not saying `we told you so’.
“There are still too many questions which remain unanswered.”
Campaigners claimed the effectiveness of wind power in reducing carbon emissions was exaggerated because wind strength is unreliable.
Only last month, during severe gales which swept Britain, some wind farms had to be shut down because the wind was too strong.
They have to be stopped if the wind is stronger than 25 metres per second.
Between now and November, Peel says more than seven miles of access tracks will be laid from Scout Moor eastwards towards Knowl Hill.
Mr Brewster added: “The work is being done as sensitively as possible.
“All the land that we have had to dig out will be re-graded, seeded and turfed.
“There is no getting away from the fact there is a new track, but we are doing everything possible to reduce the impact.”
By Dan McMullan
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