A planning application to transform historic Leah’s Yard on Cambridge Street into a creative hub for independent businesses has been submitted today.

Earlier this year, Sheffield City Council selected Tom Wolfenden, CEO of SSPCo, which manages the Cooper Buildings on Arundel Street, and James O’Hara of the Rockingham Group, which runs bars such as Public and Picture House Social, to operate the venue – part of the wider Heart of the City development programme. Realising a longstanding ambition to combine their extensive experience, the duo plan to breathe new life into the building by transforming it into a new destination for local independent businesses and retailers, socialising and enterprise.

Brining the building, which has long been listed on Historic England’s ‘Building at Risk’ register, back into a viable and sustainable use, has been a key priority for the Heart of the City team. With preliminary structural and roof work on the Grade II* Listed building nearly complete, the Council and their Strategic Development Partner, Queensberry, along with architect FCBStudios, have now submitted a planning application for the main construction and fit-out work.

Andrew Davison, Project Director at Queensberry, said:

“We are working hard to retain attractive heritage across the Heart of the City masterplan and Leah’s Yard is arguably the flagship development in that regard. Run by two of our city’s most exciting food & drink and commercial entrepreneurs, we look forward to seeing the vision come to life.”

Tom Wolfenden, CEO of SSPCo, added:

“Sheffield is full of extremely talented people who develop incredible products. Leah’s Yard will aim to bring these people and small businesses together and provide them with a route into the city centre. We are also aiming to create a truly memorable visitor experience, both in terms of the products you can buy and the atmosphere of the venue. With the plans now submitted, we are really keen to hear from the public and local businesses about what blend of retailers and ‘makers’ they would like to see at Leah’s Yard and what type of events we can host there.”

If approved, plans will see the existing Leah’s Yard complex, which sits between Cambridge Street and Backfields, refurbished largely in its current form. A bustling central public courtyard is planned and will be surrounded by small boutique shops, while the first and second floors will host around 20 independent working studios.

Stylish new-build structures will adjoin the southern side of the development and behind the retained 24-26 Cambridge Street frontage. This will greatly improve accessibility to-and-from the venue and create a gateway corner entrance near Backfields.

George Wilson, Associate at FCBStudios, said:

“By celebrating and working with the existing fabric of the Listed building, we plan to create a place that is distinctly ‘of Sheffield’ and truly unique in its character and setting. It will also reflect the city’s bold ambitions and responds to the future of city centres as experience-led destinations.”

As part of Heart of the City, Leah’s Yard will sit alongside the upcoming Cambridge Street Collective and Bethel Chapel developments – both currently under construction – that will feature a contemporary food hall, cookery school, fine dining experience and live entertainment spaces. A planning application was also submitted for Pound’s Park earlier this month, which if approved, will deliver a world class pocket park located on the former fire station site between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street. This attractive green space will help add vibrancy, character and a place for respite within the city centre.

Councillor Terry Fox, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said:

“We are delighted to see the planning application for Leah’s Yard submitted. Complementing the neighbouring Cambridge Street Collective development, we are delivering something truly transformational in this area of the city centre. In addition to safeguarding the heritage and character of the buildings, the developments also celebrate our renowned creativity and independent spirit. They will deliver a new social destination for eating, drinking, shopping and events.”

If the planning application is approved, construction work is expected to begin later this year with a target completion and public opening date of Christmas 2022.