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Nottingham scientist’s fury after famous Headington Shark house added to Oxford heritage register

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The Nottingham owner of a famous property with a 25ft shark sticking out of its roof has told of his fury over council decision to give it listed status. His dad had been in a long row with the council to install it in the first place. The Headington Shark house in Oxford has ultimately been added to the city heritage registry alongside 16 other assets during a livestreamed council meeting on Wednesday evening (March 23).

The current owner, who inherited the quirky building from his dad, hoped until the last minute for a different outcome. Dr Magnus Hanson-Heine, a University of Nottingham chemistry researcher told Nottinghamshire Live: “It is really sad – it is just a very unfortunate decision, and unpleasant one. Ultimately, they [the city council] do not understand what it is. And I think they have gone ahead and done some harm. I do not think these decisions should ever be in the hands of a small group of councillors for exactly that reason.”

But Dr Hanson-Heine’s heartbreak is even more intense as “authority control is exactly what [his dad] was against”. It all started back in 1986, when his dad Bill Heine appointed architect John Buckley to install the statue on the top of the house as a protest against “planning restrictions and censorship”.

READ MORE: Man’s battle over 25ft shark sticking out of roof as loving son wrestles with dad’s legacy

Dr Hanson-Heine – who also studied at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level in Nottingham – said that the shark also represents a stance against war, and that his dad came up with this idea after reading a newspaper one morning about the bombing in Tripoli. But his dad sadly passed away in 2019, leaving behind the iconic building that started a heated debate between its current owner and the council.

He had lived in Lenton, Beeston and Wollaton Park during his time in Nottingham but moved back to Oxford before the pandemic. He does not currently live in the house and is instead renting it as an Airbnb.

Now the devastated son said that its addition to the heritage registry is “against the whole principle of the sculpture and a large part of what that stand for”. He added: “It is exactly against that kind of government interference in people’s lives”.

After his long row with the council, a stamp to approve all the 17 properties to the registry in one go – including Headington Shark – means that the council can influence planning decisions in a way that conserves its local character. But in Dr Hanson-Heine’s eyes, the shark represents a protest, and a rebel response to ‘government control’.

He added: “I think my dad would have been appalled with the way in which the meeting went. Whether he would have liked the listing or not, I suspect not. But again, he is not here to ask.”

The son said he is now considering whether or not to continue campaigning against the listing. What started with his dad’s row with the council to erect the sculpture in the first place seems to have come full circle now with the son’s fury over the listing. “The one consistent theme is them being restrictive , interfering with someone else’s property,” he added.



Bill Heine appointed architect John Buckley to install the statue on the top of the house in 1986
Bill Heine appointed architect John Buckley to install the statue on the top of the house in 1986

“Ultimately they do exactly what they have done before. One thing that is consistent across both sides of the circle is that the council gets to decide. The decision to add it to the register is absurd and embarrassing. Ultimately, it undermines a statement, that my dad tried to make, about Oxfordshire.”

He went on and said: “Ultimately, the Headington Shark will survive, and it will stand what it stood for. What the councillors do is irrelevant to the message and structure itself. So in a sense, it almost does not matter. But it is just disappointing that the council is still somewhat blind to the point of the sculpture. Even after all these years they still have not got the message.”

A spokesperson for Oxford City Council said: “The Headington Shark was nominated for inclusion on the Oxford Heritage Asset Register by a member of the public and voted for by members of the public. A significant majority of responses were in favour of the Headington Shark joining the register.

“We contacted the owners of all buildings, structures and places nominated and invited them to submit their views on the nominations as part of the public consultation process. A report was provided to the Council’s Planning Committee summarising the responses received as part of the public consultation, with a recommendation from Officers as to whether each nomination meets the criteria required for it to be included on the Register.

“The Planning Committee then decided whether the asset should be adopted or rejected. This is a similar process to when planning applications are decided by the Planning Committee. Inclusion of a building or place on the Oxford Heritage Asset Register places no additional legal requirements or responsibilities on property owners over and above those already required for planning permission or building regulation approval. It can, however, help to influence planning decisions in a way that conserves and enhances local character.

“Under the National Planning Policy Framework the conservation and contribution of locally listed heritage assets will be a material consideration in planning decisions that directly affect them or their setting”.

For more information about the house, please visit www.headingtonshark.com.

Written by: thehitnetwork

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