MC Construction has been appointed by the National Trust to transform a disused railway viaduct in Manchester into a new urban sky park in a £1.8m scheme.
Work will soon get under way on the project, which will bring more green space and nature to the Castlefield area of the city.
The National Trust is aiming to turn the imposing 330 metres long steel viaduct, which stands 17 metres above the Castlefield canal basin and has Grade II listed status, into a temporary park in the sky and create a meeting place to benefit people and nature that celebrates the area’s industrial heritage. It is scheduled to open in July.
Russ Forshaw, Group Operations Director at Salford-based MC Construction, whose headquarters are just a mile from the site, is overseeing the construction of the pilot.
“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 and 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.
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 elevation of the viaduct. Trees, flowers and shrubs will be planted to soften the hulking, grey steel work 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.
Visitors will have the opportunity to explore part of the structure and find out more about the viaduct’s heritage and the city’s long relationship with plants and trees, and 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. 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 thanks to 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. As part of the experience, visitors will be able to join a guided walk on the viaduct.