A £1.8 MILLION footbridge was officially opened to the public — six years after it was closed.

Wilson’s Bridge, which runs over the River Croal in Kearsley, was rebuilt by United Utilities, after the old bridge was declared unstable in 2008.

But following nine months of redevelopment and the installation of a new sewer pipe, it is now fit for public use.

The bridge between Farnworth, Kearsley and Little Lever was opened by MP Yasmin Qureshi.

Residents and councillors were invited to the official opening, along with members of the rambling community.

United Utilities project manager Carl Stringer said: “This bridge is exactly what we envisaged. It’s a lengthy process to get to a point where you have something on the drawing board, but it’s a very rewarding feeling for everyone at the company to see it finally completed.”

Ms Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, said: “The bridge looks very impressive. It’s brilliant that, after all these years of planning and preparation, this bridge has been built.

“It will unite the people of Farnworth, Kearsley and Little Lever and its opening will come as great news to the walkers and ramblers in the area.”

Tom Sharples, vice chairman of The Bolton Ramblers’ Association, said: “This is the third bridge I’ve seen here in my time and this one looks superb.

“At the moment, our group has to walk along the country park to get from Farnworth to Kearsley, so it saves us a long journey. Judging by the strength of its construction, it should be around for a long time.”

The new steel structure has been designed to be in-keeping with the original and at the end of February it was brought to the site in three parts, where it was bolted together before being lifted into position using a 500-ton crane.