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Work underway on Manchester’s urban sky park

Work is progressing on an urban sky park in Manchester as the National Trust and partners transform a steel viaduct into a green space that celebrates the industrial heritage of Castlefield.  

Due to open in July, the National Trust aims to turn the 330m structure, built in 1892 into a temporary park in the sky. Originally built to carry heavy rail traffic in and out of the Great Northern Warehouse, the station closed in 1969. Since then it has stood unused with National Highways undertaking essential repairs and regular maintenance to keep it safe.

The pilot phase of the project will see a green space created to stretch half way across the elevation of the viaduct. Trees, flowers and shrubs will be planted to soften the industrial structure to help attract wildlife. 

Open for 12 months, visitors will be able to explore part of the structure and learn about the viaduct’s heritage, the city’s relationship with plants and trees and have the opportunity to learn some urban gardening tips.  

A section of the viaduct will be left untouched to provide a sense of how nature has reclaimed the space since the site was closed to the late 1960s. It will also have several new features including installations, a community space to hold events and other native planting.

The charity also aims to capture visitors’ opinions when they visit to help determine the longer term future of the Grade II listed structure.

Costing £1.8m, the pilot has been funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, as well as public donations which will cover two-thirds of the build costs.

The plans for Castlefield Viaduct are part of the National Trust’s Urban Places work to increase access to parks and green spaces in, around, and near urban areas, so that more people are in easy reach of quiet places with wide open skies.

Partners include National Highways Historical Railways Estate Team, supported by Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Transport for Greater Manchester, the local community, businesses and supporters on the project.

“The viaduct has stood in Manchester for over 125 years, and we want to help the city to protect it, injecting the viaduct with a new lease of life so it becomes a space people can use and be proud of,” said Duncan Laird, head of urban places at the National Trust.

“By testing ideas, finding out what people really need from this unique space during the pilot we will take the learning and progress a more permanent solution for the viaduct – directly shaped by visitors and the local community.”

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