Plan to build ‘Park In The Sky’ in Manchester City Centre

The National Trust has unveiled an ambitious plan to convert a derelict viaduct in the centre of Manchester into a verdant urban park and meeting place.

At 330 metres in length, the Castlefield Viaduct once carried heavy rail traffic from the west of the city into the former Central Station (now the Manchester Central Convention Complex).

Built in 1892 by Heenan & Froude – the engineering company responsible for Blackpool Tower – the viaduct has been unused since 1969, a largely forgotten part of the city’s industrial heritage.

Over the years, work to maintain the Grade II listed structure has been carried out by Highways England, ensuring it remained safe as part of the agency’s Historical Railways Estate portfolio. 

An assessment is currently taking place to determine its condition ahead of an application for planning permission, which the National Trust expects to make in the autumn.

The initial idea is to open the viaduct as a temporary park with light-touch landscaping next summer, as a way to test ideas and develop a strategy for the long term. A visitor centre and interpretation boards could provide information about the area and its history.

Similar in style to New York’s successful High Line linear park, also built on a disused rail viaduct, the Trust’s vision is to transform the space into a free-to-access park in which visitors can enjoy a green and nature-rich oasis, high above the city streets and River Irwell. 

It is hoped it will also provide walking and cycling links to other green spaces and attractions such as the nearby Museum of Science Industry.

Over the past sixteen months, the value of the natural environment and the important role it plays in ensuring good mental health and general wellbeing has very much come to the fore.

Mike Innerdale, regional director of National Trust North England, said: ‘National Trust houses, gardens and outdoor places in the North West welcome over a million visitors every year.

‘However, we understand that these places can be hard to reach for people who live closer to the city and access to good quality green space in urban areas is limited.

‘The viaduct gives us an opportunity to create an accessible green space for the 50,000 residents living within a twenty-minute walk of the area of Castlefield.

‘As well as transforming the viaduct into a green space for people, we recognise the viaduct’s importance to Manchester’s history and the need to protect it.

‘Transforming the viaduct into an urban park will bring together nature, history and beauty which the National Trust was set up to protect 126 years ago.’

Speaking about the idea, Mayor Andy Burnham said: ‘The Castlefield Viaduct is such an iconic part of Manchester’s heritage, so it’s fantastic to see the National Trust’s plans for breathing new life into this landmark and I look forward to working with them to make this a reality.

‘Greater Manchester’s parks and green spaces have been a lifeline over the pandemic, and we’ve all been reminded of how important access to nature is, which is why I’m committed to creating greener, more liveable communities.’

The project is at a very early stage and the Trust is keen to hear the views of the local community. It is also keen to speak to corporate sponsors and fundraisers. A series of online events is being held in June and July, at which people who live close to the viaduct are invited to look at the proposals and share their own thoughts.

Photo Credit – National Trust 


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