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Manchester to get an urban park in the sky

The Castlefield viaduct, unused since Manchester Central closed as a station in 1969, is set to be converted into an urban park

Castlefield viaduct was built in 1892, constructed by Heenan and Froude, the engineers who worked on the Blackpool Tower.

The viaduct was used to carry heavy rail traffic in and out of Manchester Central railway station (now the Manchester Central Convention Complex) until 1969, when the station closed.

Now, it is set to become an urban park thanks to a new National Trust project.

What are the plans for Castlefield viaduct?

Photo: National Trust

The initial plan is to open the viaduct next summer as a temporary park before plans are confirmed for how it could be used in the longer term.

To temporarily change the viaduct’s use and open it to the public, the National Trust will be applying for planning permission in the autumn.

As well as connecting the local community with history and nature, it’s hoped that the new green oasis will also be a stepping stone to other green spaces and nearby attractions in the city.

The need for green spaces

“We’re delighted to be starting this project to bring new life to the viaduct, establishing its place in this vibrant area of the city,” says Duncan Laird from the National Trust.

“Our ambition is to give more people the opportunity to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of green, nature-rich havens on this remarkable heritage structure in the city.

“This feels especially important in urban areas like Manchester where there is a need for more high-quality green spaces.

“This project will also help bring people back to the city centre and support local businesses to recover.

The project is part of the National Trust’s Urban Places work to give more people the opportunity to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits associated with green spaces, parks and gardens.

The pandemic has emphasised the huge inequalities in access to green space across Britain, with 295 deprived urban neighbourhoods described as ‘grey deserts’, with no trees or accessible green space.

Why does Manchester need a city centre park?

Image: National Trust

“National Trust houses, gardens and outdoor places in the North West welcome over a million visitors every year,” says the National Trust’s Mike Innerdale.

“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.”

The importance of access to nature

“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,” says Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester.

“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.

“This project could make a big contribution to this goal – and help revitalise our city’s heritage at the same time.”

How to have your say

“We want to work closely with local partners and the community to shape plans for the viaduct and make it happen together,” says Duncan.

“We have some initial ideas, but we need others to share thoughts too. We’re inviting people who live near the viaduct to join one of our free online events to find out more or fill in our online survey.

“These events and the feedback we gather will really help us to make sure we get this right for Manchester.”

You can find out more about the proposals for Castlefield viaduct and give your feedback at events taking place on Wednesday 30th June, 1-2 pm, hosted online; Thursday 1st July, 6-7 pm, hosted online; and Tuesday 6th July, 7-8 pm, hosted online.

An online questionnaire will be available from Wednesday 23rd June for members of the public to fill out via the Trust’s Castlefield viaduct webpage.

If COVID restrictions are lifted in July, a public event will also be held at the Science and Industry Museum on Thursday 22nd July, where people can drop in between 12-3 pm to find out more in person.

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