THE eccentric broadcaster who installed a 25-foot fibre glass shark in the roof of his home, is to receive an honour from the city council which fought to have it removed – despite strong opposition from a former planning chief who branded the decision as 'disgraceful'.

American Bill Heine, 73, will be presented with a Special Certificate of Merit by Oxford City Council in recognition of his contribution to the city.

But the move has been attacked by his former Lord Mayor John Power, who described the shark as a 'loopy publicity stunt' and said the council ought to be ashamed.

Oxford Mail columnist and former BBC Radio Oxford presenter, Mr Heine, is only the fourth person in the council's history to receive the honour, which celebrates his charity work and broadcasting.

The award, which will be presented by the Lord Mayor of Oxford Jean Fooks at the Town Hall next Friday, follows Mr Heine's bombshell disclosure in the Oxford Mail, that he is fighting terminal cancer, with doctors giving him just a year more to live.

Mr Heine battled the city council for six years for the right to keep the shark which was installed at his Headington home, without planning permission, in August 1986.

The authority refused retrospective permission and repeatedly demanded its removal, eventually losing the fight after Mr Heine appealed to the then secretary of state for the environment Michael Heseltine, who decreed that the shark should stay.

The fish, created by sculptor John Buckley 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.

Mr Heine, who lives in Waterstock with his partner Jane Hanson, said: "News of this award came like a bolt out of the blue.

"The fact the council have turned around completely is remarkable and I really respect them for their ability to say 'we got it wrong'.

"The shark is the most unexpectedly quirky, bizarre, yet satisfying thing I have been involved in – and I would like to thank the council for being the best opponents anyone could ask for."

He added: "John Power said the most extraordinary things. He said he would 'fight with every drop of my blood to see that it is torn down from the roof'.

Maybe he has now run out of blood? I'm willing to let bygones be bygones but he won't even talk to me."

When the shark was installed, Mr Power described it as a 'narcissistic Disneyland fantasy'.

On learning of Mr Heine's imminent award, yesterday, he said: "

“The council ought to be ashamed of themselves for giving him this award.

“This is a man who wasted more public money than anyone else, with all the petitions and surveys and time wasted in meetings. To give him this recognition is disgraceful.

“All the consultation we did showed ordinary people living on the street didn’t want it and it was overturned by a Tory government minister to spite a Labour council.

“I’ve never changed my mind about it.

“This may be one of the most educated cities but it has more nitwits per square foot than anywhere else.

“People come to Oxford for the architecture and to see the spires, not to see a loopy shark publicity stunt.

“No one consulted those of us who were there at the time, I’m ashamed of them. They will have their nice jolly at the Town Hall to praise somebody who wasted so much money.

“Does this mean that anyone who is refused planning permission can expect an award in the future?”

Mr Heine's charity work includes support for Vale House – an assisted living facility for dementia sufferers in Sandford-on-Thames, and the Oxford-based Children's Radio Foundation.

He was last year diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, but has vowed to fight the illness. He is trialling a new cancer-busting drug, Durvalumab, which offers hope of extending his life.

He said: "I feel well. I feel like it's working and I am going to give this my best shot!"

In a letter to Mr Heine, council leader Bob Price said: "We were all profoundly shocked to learn about your illness and the prognosis from the medics. Reading the report in the Oxford Mail prompted a number of comments from members of the city council and colleagues in community organisations, asking us to consider how we can collectively express our gratitude for the work that you have done over many years to support local charities and voluntary bodies – not to mention your work on the radio that has clearly been the source of great pleasure to many people."

The award is part of a scheme to recognise people who have contributed to the city. Nominations are received from members of the public, with the Lord Mayor making a final decision.

Previous recipients are Marios Papadopoulos, the founder and music director of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra; the former Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Hugo Brunner; and Helmut Kollig, the mayor of Oxford's German twin town, Bonn.

Mr Price told the Oxford Mail: “There are a number of reasons Bill was chosen for the award.

“He has contributed to a lot of people’s lives through his work on the radio and writing in the city’s journals.

“On occasion, people might find him insightful, on other occasions, they may find him irritating – but he is always interesting."

He added: “It may have been controversial at the time but I think the shark house is now seen as an example of the quirkiness and special character of Oxford.

“It has become one of the most iconic parts of the city. I supported it, despite the concerns over planning permissions, because I thought people should be encouraged to become a bit quirky rather than leave everything to be uniform. As an artistic contribution to the landscape, it is a nice thing to have.

“Every member of the council has had our disagreements with Bill over many issues. He can be provocative but is always pleasant.

"This is a man who has made a significant contribution to our lives and to this end we should recognise what he has done for the city. There is an added impetus to recognise this now with the sad news of his terminal cancer.”

* Bill Heine: a gentle eccentric

Raised in the small town of Batavia, Illinois, Bill Heine studied American Diplomatic History at Georgetown University in Washington DC in the 1960s and avoided being sent to fight in Vietnam by volunteering with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and then Peru – where his acquaintances included the actor Dennis Hopper, star of Easy Rider.

He came to Oxford after earning a place at Balliol College to study Law.

In 1976 he opened the Penultimate Picture Palace in Jeune Street, East Oxford, with his then friend Pablo Butcher. The cinema attracted the ire of the city council by screening banned and provocative films and for installing a pair of giant fibreglass hands to the front in tribute to the entertainer Al Jolson.

Bill's sense of mischief also saw him install a set of can-can dancers legs to the front of his other cinema, Not the Moulin Rouge, in Headington.

He is best known, however, for his shark house, in New High Street, Headington.

Designed by sculptor John Buckley and built by carpenter Anton Castiau, it was conceived as a protest against the American bombing of Libya. Bill has also described it as a statement about nuclear weapons (it was erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki).

Despite repeated calls from the council to remove it, Bill fought to keep it, the sculpture ultimately winning a reprieve in 1992 after an appeal to the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine.

He said of the council: "They just couldn't take it on the chin and didn't believe they could lose."

Bill has written for the Oxford Star and Oxford Mail, and presented shows on BBC Radio Oxford for more than 30 years until 2015.

He has a son, Magnus, a chemist who lives in Nottingham.

He has written two books, Heinstein of the Airwaves and The Hunting of the Shark.

*Follow Bill's progress in his fight against cancer, every Friday in the Oxford Mail.