New tenants move in at Oxford landmark

John Bennett, pictured with his nine-month-old son Thomas, has moved into the shark house in Headington

John Bennett, pictured with his nine-month-old son Thomas, has moved into the shark house in Headington Buy this photo

First published in Oxford Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

MEET the Bennett family. They might seem like a normal Oxford family but their house is a bit of a giveaway.

They are the newest residents at 2 New High Street, Headington – better known for having a large carbon-fibre shark sticking out of its roof.

Last year the home’s owner, BBC Radio Oxford presenter Bill Heine, put the house up for rent and moved out.

Now John and Debbie Bennett have moved in with their nine-month old son Thomas.

Mr Bennett, a 46-year-old tax advisor, said: “We got married in 2010 and Debbie already lived in New High Street. We saw the shark on a daily basis and loved it.

“We were hoping to buy a house but as luck would have it this house came on the market.

“The fact that it was the shark house was just a bonus. We were looking for somewhere with more space.

“Since May we have had five people knock on the door and scores if not hundreds of people taking photos. That’s just the ones we notice.”

Mrs Bennett, 40, said: “We are very used to looking out of the window and seeing someone looking back at us.

“People ask us questions as we leave the house so we make sure we know enough about it to answer them.”

One of the questions they are most commonly asked is whether the shark has a head or not – the answer is it doesn’t.

Mrs Bennett said the shark had no impact on the structure of the building itself other than the fact that the ceiling in the room below it, which is currently used as a spare bedroom, is slightly lower than the rest.

The terraced house comes with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a small garden and fitted kitchen with breakfast room.

When the Headington shark first plummeted into the roof of the house in August 1986, it was greeted with shock and anger.

The sculpture, called Untitled 1986, became the focus of a lengthy planning battle, with Oxford City Council even attempting to remove it.

Eventually in 1992 it was given planning permission by Michael Heseltine, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, on the grounds that any planning system must have “some small place for the dynamic, the unexpected, the downright quirky”.

The shark, which is 25 feet long, has since become one of Headington’s most well-loved members of the community.

In November rent for the house was pegged at £2,500-a-month, but this would not include the maintenance of the shark itself, which Mr Heine has said he will carry out.

Mrs Bennett would not reveal how much they paid but said: “Bill has been very welcoming and wanted to make sure it was homely. He is great as a landlord.”

Mr Heine was unavailable for comment.

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