The National Trust is in the early stages of a project to bring Manchester’s Castlefield viaduct back into use, transforming the disused railway line into a green oasis above the city.
Built in 1892, the viaduct was used to carry heavy rail traffice out of Manchester Central railway station (now the Manchester Central Convention Complex), until 1969 when the station closed. Since then the viaduct has tood unusued with Highways England undertaking essential repairs and maintenance to ensure its safety.
The National Trust are now spearheading a project to re-purpose the viaduct and bring it back to life as an urban park, working in partnership with Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate team, and supported by Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
The ambition for the viaduct is to transform it into an urban park and meeting place for people and nature that celebrates the industrial hertiage of the city, whilst connecting the local community with history and nature.
Initial plans are to open the viaduct in summer 2021 as a temporary park to test ideas and gather feedback for the site’s long-term future, and the National Trust will be applying for temporary planning permission in Auutmn 2021.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, 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. This project could make a big contribution to this goal – and help revitalise our city’s heritage at the same time.”
Duncan Laird, Head of Urban Places at the National Trust, says: “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. 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 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.
“We want to work closely with local partners and the community to shape plans for the viaduct and make it happen together. 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.”
The project is part of the National Trust’s Urban Places work to address the inequalities in access to green space in and around urban areas. Their ambition is to give more people the opportunity to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of green, nature-rich parks and gardens. The pandemic in particular has highlighted significant inequalities in access to green space across Britain with 295 deprived urban neighbourhoods described as ‘grey deserts’, with no trees or accessible green space.”
Mike Innerdale, Regional Director for the North at the National Trust, says: “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.”
A public online questionnaire opens on 23 June for members of the public to provide feedback on the plans, with a public feedback event due to take place in July where people can drop in, pending Covid-19 restrictions. Further information can be found on the National Trust website.