UK shark house could be given heritage status

Bill Heine in front of his house, which has a 7m shark sculpture sticking out of its roof

A house with a 7m high great white shark sticking out of its roof in the UK is set to be given heritage-listed status by the same council that tried to demolish it.

In 1986 in the Oxford suburb of Headington, the home’s former owner, local radio journalist Bill Heine, commissioned sculptor John Buckley to create the fibreglass shark, without council permission, to protest the against American bombing of Libya.

Oxford City Council tried to stop the sculpture from being built and refused Heine’s application for retrospective planning permission in 1990.

However, the shark was eventually saved when Heine appealed to Michael Heseltine, the then secretary of state for the environment.

Thirty years later, members of Oxford City Council have now put in an application for the home to be listed on the Oxford Heritage Asset Register.

“I was shocked to find out that the shark had not been listed,” Ruth Wilkinson, the Headington councillor who is leading the project, said.

“In just 10 minutes on a Sunday morning I saw seven different people taking photos of it and posing for selfies. Mention Headington here or abroad and the one thing people have heard of is the shark.”

Oxford City Council’s decision on whether to list the shark is due next year.

Heine said he was delighted the community cared enough about the shark to try to get the property listed.

“When the sculptor John Buckley and I put the shark in my house all that time ago we didn’t think it would last for 31 hours, let alone 31 years,” Heine said.

In 1986, local residents weren’t pleased about the changes Heine made to his home.

Heine said an elderly woman had shouted at him: “You’re lowering the tone of the street. We don’t have sharks on our roofs here. It’s disgusting.”

However, he is thrilled the shark has now become a local tourist attraction.

“I’m delighted that time has had an opportunity to add some sheen to the shark.”

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