Historic Leah’s Yard will become “beating heart of Sheffield city centre” says pub developer James O’Hara

Almost 100 independent businesses are interested in moving into the new Leah’s Yard in Sheffield city centre and its developer says he can’t wait to get started.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 1:05 pm

James O’Hara, who owns six pubs in the city, said there had been an “unbelievable and genuinely humbling” demand for the 37 units at the new Heart of the City 2 development.

He’s had 96 inquiries from a range of “amazing” Sheffield based independent businesses wanting to move in.

Councillors agreed the old Tap and Tankard pub and former Chubbys takeaway on Cambridge Street could be demolished to make way for the new scheme.

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How the new Leah's Yard in Sheffield city centre will look. James O'Hara has received 96 enquiries from businesses interested in moving in to the new Heart of the City 2 development (image fcbstudios)

The facade of the unlisted building will remain but there were objections from heritage groups about the demolition.

“Bringing the life of Leah’s Yard into the 21st century”

Mr O’Hara told the planning meeting he wanted to make the site “the beating heart of the city.”

He said: “The history and the heritage of Leah’s Yard was one of the main reasons we tendered for this opportunity.

James O'Hara addressing Sheffield Council's planning committee about the new Leah's Yard development in the city centre.

“As someone born and bred in the city, and whose dad started working at Brown Bayley at the age of 15 making Sheffield steel cutlery, getting the opportunity to do something so steeped in history is a real honour.

“Given the building has been vacant for 20 odd years, it’s really important that while we respect its history and heritage, we made this building work for Sheffield’s future.

“It’s all about taking a building that is currently not fit for purpose and giving it a new life. I think the proposed scheme does this really well and brings the life of Leah’s into the 21st century and beyond.

“The new block allows the preservation of the old block, the two things are symbiotic.”

Why the old Tap and Tankard pub can’t be saved

Mr O’Hara, who developed an old toilet into the bar Public, said he was aware people were passionate about the unlisted building.

“I’m incredibly passionate about pubs. I own six in the city, and I love contributing to Sheffield’s night time economy and culture.

“But the current interior of the pub isn’t fit for modern use. As a licensee myself, I would not feel comfortable having patrons using the stairs for example, from a health and safety point of view.

“It’s a nightmare – and this is coming from someone who opened a bar in a bog.

“I’ve already developed two listed buildings in this city and made them thriving businesses so I like to think I know what I’m talking about in this area.

“Drinking habits and the nature of pubs have changed a huge amount over the last 10 years nevermind the last 100.

“The current footprint of the pub makes it very difficult for it to make sense as a modern business in a modern city centre.

“A much better use is what is being proposed. We keep the frontage, we make the insides bigger, the business going in there is still going to be a licenced premise and what we have is something that’s fit for purpose for the next 100 years.”