The National Trust has appointed MC Construction for the US$2.4 million scheme, which is designed to bring more green space and nature to the Castlefield area of the city.

The National Trust is aiming to turn the 330m-long steel viaduct, which stands 17m above the Castlefield canal basin and has Grade II listed status, into a temporary ‘park in the sky’. Work on the Castlefield Viaduct starts this month and it is scheduled to open in July.

Castlefield Viaduct - work starts in March 2022

Russ Forshaw, group operations director at MC Construction, said: “We are absolutely delighted and incredibly proud to be a pivotal part of the regeneration of Castlefield Viaduct. This project will transform this unused historic space into a green oasis and support the economic growth and social well-being of the local community of Castlefield and beyond.

“As a local SME which has just celebrated our 50th year in business, we view this as a landmark project, adding to our legacy of works within the city of Manchester.”

The viaduct was built in 1892 by Heenan & Froude, the engineers who worked on the iconic Blackpool Tower, to carry heavy rail traffic in and out of the Great Northern Warehouse in Manchester.

Castlefield Viaduct - work starts in March 2022

Since the station’s closure in 1969, the viaduct has remained unused, with National Highways undertaking essential repairs and maintenance to keep it safe.

The pilot phase of the park in the sky project will see a green space created to stretch halfway across the viaduct.  Trees, flowers and shrubs will be planted to soften the steelwork of the industrial structure to help attract wildlife.

The park, which will be open for 12 months, has been made possible thanks to the National Trust working in collaboration with 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.

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. It will also have several new features, including installations, a community space to hold events, and other native planting.

The National Trust also aims to capture visitors’ opinions to help determine the longer-term future of the structure.

Hilary McGrady, director-general of the National Trust, said: “This is a hugely significant moment in our plans for creating a unique green space to benefit the surrounding community and to bring more nature to people’s doorsteps. The project is also a fantastic way to celebrate our industrial heritage, bringing it to life for the 21st century.

“The pandemic showed us the importance of our local parks and gardens, but it also highlighted significant inequalities in access to green space in urban areas like Manchester.

“By working with others, we aim to increase access to parks and green spaces in, around and near urban areas, so eventually everyone is in easy reach of quiet places for reflection with wide open skies.

“We hope that ‘greening’ the viaduct will become a stepping-stone to other Manchester green spaces and nearby attractions, adding to the city’s vibrant, cultural offer.”

The pilot has been made possible using funding raised by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery as well as public donations, which will cover two-thirds of the build costs.

When the first phase opens in July, 100 people a day will be able to visit.  Entry onto the structure will be free, with a booking system in place to help manage numbers. Visitors will be able to join a guided walk on the viaduct.