HEADINGTON’S iconic shark house could become a protected listed building following a suggestion by a member of the very authority that tried to have the sculpture removed.

The house in New High Street, was transformed into Oxford’s quirkiest tourist attraction when its owner, the journalist and broadcaster Bill Heine, had the 25-foot fish installed in the roof in August 1986.

Oxford City Council famously tried to scupper the project and refused retrospective planning permission in 1990. Refusing to back down, Mr Heine appealed to the then secretary of state for the environment Michael Heseltine, who came out in favour of the shark in 1992.

The fibre glass shark, created by sculptor John Buckley, and created as a protest against the American bombing of Libya, continues to attract droves of tourists. A new campaign to have the structure listed could save it indefinitely.

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

“In just 10 minutes on a Sunday morning I saw seven different people taking photos of it and posing for selfies.

“It has been promoted in The Guardian and Telegraph and it has its own Wikipedia entry.

“Mention Headington here or abroad and the one thing people have heard of is the shark.”

An application for it to be listed on the Oxford Heritage Asset Register will now go to Oxford City Council for consideration, with a decision expected by council heritage officers in the summer.

If approved, the city councillor said, the next step would be to have it nationally listed with English Heritage.

She added: “This may prove interesting as the shark’s arrival had initially sparked controversy in the council chamber.”

Speaking of the plan, the Chairman of Headington Neighbourhood Forum Mike Ratcliffe said: “One of the themes of the Headington neighbourhood plan is to preserve and develop the identity of Headington.

“The shark, embedded in its rooftop, continues to intrude, to surprise and to fascinate.

“People stop to look, it has a presence on Trip Advisor and has an international reputation.

“I think it’s an eminently appropriate candidate for the Oxford Heritage Register. Having gained fame through its struggles through the planning system, how appropriate to now find ways of protecting it through the planning system.”

Mr Heine, 72, who lives in Waterstock is currently receiving treatment for terminal leukaemia. He welcomed the campaign to get the shark house listed, saying: “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.

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

* Follow Bill Heine’s account of his battle with cancer in his weekly column in the Oxford Mail and online at oxfordmail.co.uk