Major work to strengthen Bingley’s historic Ireland Bridge is to be completed weeks ahead of schedule, allowing the road to reopen to traffic this month.

Bradford Council began work on the 17th-century grade II listed structure in January, after a delay due to the discovery of a colony of rare Daubenton’s bats.

The vital work to widen the steep, narrow road from the bridge to the St Ives Estate, known as The Twines, was expected to last until the middle of July.

The bridge was incapable of carrying two lanes of traffic after investigations revealed that parapets and the walls between the arches and parapet had weakened.

Engineers have now confirmed they expect to have two-way traffic flowing over the bridge by Saturday, June 19.

Mark Brundle, Bradford Council’s senior highways structures engineer, said: “The work, in collaboration with Eric Wright civil engineering, has progressed really well and involved innovative engineering solutions which have helped reduced costs.

“Although the bridge will be back to its original two lane width, the continuation of work on The Twines will mean carriageway restrictions for the next few weeks.”

It was decided last year to restore the bridge to two lanes, but work was re-scheduled for the winter after the bat colony was discovered, to coincide with the creatures leaving the area to hibernate in caves in the Yorkshire Dales.

Nearby businesses complained about the temporary closure of the bridge saying it had affected their trade.

Mustafa Ozmen, landlord of the Brown Cow, next to the bridge, said: “I’m pleased.

“When it opens it will be like starting all over again, so it’s pretty exciting.

“The guys who have been doing the bridge have been doing a good job.”