Castlefield Viaduct Park Rendering 1, National Trust, C Twelve Architects & Masterplanners
The viaduct has been closed since 1969. Credit: via planning documents

Castlefield ‘High Line’ moves forward 

Dan Whelan

The National Trust has lodged plans for a 20-month pilot scheme that will see part of the 1892 Manchester viaduct transformed into a public park. 

A project team, lead by London-based Twelve Architects and Masterplanners, aims to convert half of the 330-metre Castlefield Viaduct into a park that could open next summer. 

Under plans lodged this week, the park would feature: 

  • A welcome kiosk 
  • Three cycle loops 
  • A secret garden with modular planters and timber platforms 
  • A modular events space 
  • Interpretation boards informing visitors about the viaduct’s history
  • Two compost toilets.

The majority of the grade two-listed viaduct will remain as it is now, demonstrating how an urban structure can be reclaimed by nature. 

Vegetation that has flourished on the viaduct since it closed includes buddleia and wild strawberries. 

The project has been likened to the High Line in New York and has been in the pipeline since 2012 when architect BDP drew up plans to repurpose the bridge. 

Purcell is the heritage consultant and Arup is the structural engineer for the latest iteration of the project.

Built in 1892 and constructed by Heenan and Froude, the engineers who worked on Blackpool Tower, the viaduct was used until 1969 when Manchester Central Station closed. 

Click any image to launch gallery – all images by Twelve Architects & Masterplanners.

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This is going to be such an asset to the city, cant wait for it!

By Bob

Fabulous, shame the whole viaduct can’t be remastered into the above scheme, seems such a waste to do only part of it. Hope it becomes a permanent feature in the future. Excellent idea.

By Anonymous

This has the potential to be awesome.

By mp3

Whilst a great idea, it does seem like a bit of an afterthought and not enough planning has gone into it. Appreciate phase 2 will take us to the end of the Viaduct but more access points need to be added rather than the currently ones at the beginning, if only for health and safety. I’m just not feeling it yet.

By Andrew

Great news. Can’t wait to see this open.

By Steve

Fantastic. The sooner the better.

I hope long term it can be a traffic free walking/cycle route linking Pomona, Trafford and Salford right into the city centre, connecting the viaduct to the Bridgewater and Ship Canal; Highline and waterside.

By Thumbs Up

This is going to be amazing.

By Elephant

What a fantastic inner-city re-wilding project if only they removed the people and let nature take over!

By Andy

Hopefully this is just the beginning. Fully developed this will be an incredible asset to the city.

By NimblyWimbly

Great initiative. Let’s hope it receives the public sector support it deserves.

By Anonymous

Fantastic if this happens, but it’s disappointing that they are so keen for it to be a pre-booked guided experience with a single entry and exit point. The success of the High Line in New York comes from the fact that it is freely open to the public and provides a viable walking route.

Free public through-access would be better for the city, better for visitor numbers and better for revenue from the cafe or coffee stand they put up there.

By W

I like the look of this but they defiantly need to do the whole viaduct rather than just part

By Jon P

As a local, I’ve been extremely looking forward to this, and while it does look wonderful, it’s disappointing that it seems you would only be able to visit it as part of a guided tour (hopefully they don’t charge for this!) and that there’s only one access point. I’ve visited the high line in new York a number of times and part of the success and charm of it is that you can freely roam around at your own leisure, you can access the high line from numerous locations and you can use it as a tranquil way to walk above busy streets. I’m not feeling it’ll give the same experience. However, Manchester is in massive need of inner city green spaces so it’s great that this is going ahead as opposed to knocking it down and filling the area with new homes we can’t even afford anyway :)

By Abi

Fact fans: the viaduct still connects to live metrolink lines at the other end so having it fully open is a no go fo safety purposes, but the majority of it looks like being used

By Manc resident

@manc resident – get your facts right if you’re going to post things like that.

At the Deansgate end it is completely clear, at the other end there used to be four rail lines, there are only 2-3 metrolink lines and ample room for a path alongside, just needs a route down at Pomona.

By Thumbs Up

I think the backdrop of Castlefield is unique and could look stunning, but I agree with Abi, it’s not that great if you have to pay or need a guide. Suppose it will help with the continued maintenance so it will be worth it.

I know there have been other similar schemes proposed such as at Great Northern and Victoria North, the latter sounding though as it will be free and provide a decent traffic free route to the northern part of the city centre.

There are a few schemes taking place like this in the UK, the one in Leeds being a flagship which is quite a lengthy route as well.

Building on Abi’s comment, this is something which Manchester should start heavily investing in given the increase in population in the wider city region, excessive traffic and utter lack of green space in the city centre.

By Anonymous

Fantastic to see this project developing in my view should skip through any trials and progress the entire permanent facility. I hope the NT don’t let any corporates or developers anywhere near this, don’t spoil this wonderful opportunity.

By Simon

Great idea, but such a shame that it has to be pre-booked as a guided tour. As others have said, the success of the highline in NYC is that it is open and accessible for all and you can roam freely. This would be a great meeting place for people to enjoy in the city centre, and regular access points along the line would add to this and avoid inevitable congestion at the current entrance. Hopefully the pilot scheme is purely to gauge interest and the plan is eventually to open it up as a public domain.

By Anonymous

Such a good idea that was first mooted some 30 years ago. But why on earth do we need guides (and what for?). This should be free-to-all as it’s such an important part of our heritage.

By Old Hack

Surprised MCC don’t want to build flats on it as it’s a vacant plot in Castlefield!!!

By Disgruntled Goat

I’ve thought for ages the viaduct would make a great garden having seen the one in Paris. I’m so pleased it’s going to happen. It’ll be a great asset to the city which doesn’t have too many green spaces.

By J Dixon

As this is a pilot scheme, I assume the NT are going to build a case for refurbishing/using the whole viaduct in a future scheme. I also assume the guided tour aspect is because of the temporary nature of the scheme, as such the deck of the viaduct is not structurally sound, so the guide is there for safety purposes and limits numbers on a fragile structure.

I can totally see this running the whole length of the available viaduct with stairs down to Potato Wharf, and hopefully taking over the car park on top of the viaduct, with some kind of stair/bridge onto Deansgate

By Bradford

Wigan Council;- this could be the future for Haigh Viaduct ! (before it falls down)

By Tha'knows

Of course who wouldn’t love to see a High-Line in Manchester. For anyone that has been to the original-it’s a fabulous piece of public realm/green infrastructure. Unfortunately, this looks like a poor-man’s version. In particular those plants look much more at home in Singapore rather than Manchester. The floor treatment looks like something out of a garden centre. The James Cormer scheme is so well thought out in every detail-this needs to do better-frankly.

By Adam Ash

Stop referring to it as the Manchester version of the High Line. This is completely different and, in my point of view, pointless.

By Alan