Traders have spoken of their relief following the re-opening of Bingley’s Ireland Bridge after a six- month closure.

Many feared for the future of their businesses because of a drop in passing trade while essential strengthening work was carried out in a £1.6 million project.

Engineering work was initially delayed because of rare nesting bats and there was a further short delay to the proposed re-opening because of bad weather.

Construction work at The Twines, between the bridge and St Ives Estate, was continuing yesterday, with temporary traffic lights in place. But the two-lane bridge was fully re-opened to traffic.

Richard Clarke, co-owner of Flower Couture, in Main Street, said: “It is busier already but it has been a very quiet six months.

“It has been the worst period since we opened four years ago but it is now getting busier all the time.”

Mr Clarke, who lives in Denholme and takes his daughter to school in Cullingworth, crossed the bridge three times each day before it shut in January. Its closure meant he had to take a detour of about 18 miles.

“At busy times, it has been chaos,” he said.

Joe Jennings, manager of Keith Lambert Cyclesport, in Main Street, said the re-opening was brilliant news for businesses. But he said: “They still haven’t completed it six months down the line. Why has it taken them so long?”

Mustafa Ozmen, licensee at the Brown Cow, which stands yards from Ireland Bridge, estimated he had lost £200,000 in the first eight weeks of the bridge’s closure.

He said: “It took away my passing trade. It needed to be done, and they have done a good job but I’ve suffered because of it. The only reason I have been able to keep open is because of (the brewery) Timothy Taylors. Without them, I wouldn’t have survived.”