Oxford’s iconic Headington Shark has been added to the Oxford Heritage Asset Register - despite objections from its owner.

It is one of 17 new additions to the register approved at a city council planning meeting yesterday.

The register recognises places of important local cultural, social or historic value.

The Shark sculpture at 2 New High Street, Headington, draws hundreds of visitors.

But owner Magnus Hanson-Heine was adamant he did not want it added to the city council's list of important pieces of heritage.

Dr Hanson-Heine said that by making the Shark a heritage asset, it undermined the artwork and political statement it was seeking to preserve.

His comment against the nomination said: "Through inclusion it would make the Shark into something it was never intended to be."

Dr Hanson-Heine, 34, inherited the house from his late dad Bill in 2016 who installed the statue in secret without planning permission in 1986 and sparked a six-year planning row with Oxford City Council.

He was only able to keep it when Michael Heseltine backed an appeal in 1992.

Cuncillors were told that the Shark House's owner did not support the application.

Councillor Nigel Chapman asked what weight had been given to these comments.

Planning officers said they were considered alongside the others but the main consideration was how well the nominations matched the criteria.

Chair councillor Colin Cook said the comments were "a wilful misunderstanding of the purpose of the register" which, he said, was to inform future planning decisions.

"When you make decisions it is better to be informed. I'm all for information and intelligence rather than ignorance," he said.

Cllr Elizabeth Wade asked if inclusion brought a greater responsibility to maintain the asset.

"If he wants to, he can take the shark down and nobody can stop him," councillors heard.

Councillor Laurence Fouweather asked whether heritage status would apply only to the shark sculpture or include the house too.

"It includes both. We consider the shark and the house one piece of artwork," he was told.

Dr Hanson-Heine said: "I think it's appalling. Ultimately it's my house. And it's logically inconsistent to protect something using planning law that is a protest against planning law.

"The council don't understand art, these decisions should not be left to them. If councillors don't know the Headington Shark House without it being on the register then that's not coming from a place of intelligence or information."

He added: "It's a very disappointing result in a very disappointing process."


The other 16 sites to make it on to the list are:

  • Temple Cowley Library, Temple Road, Cowley
  • The Printworks, Crescent Road, Cowley
  • 69 London Road, Headington
  • 105 London Road, Headington
  • Medieval Wall, The Grates, Cowley
  • The Lodge, Binsey Lane
  • The Lodge, Rose Hill Cemetery, Church Cowley Road
  • Weirs House, Weirs Lane
  • The Chapel, Rose Hill Cemetery, Church Cowley Road
  • Bailey Bridge, Port Meadow
  • Crown and Thistle Pub, 132 Old Road, Headington
  • The Westgate Hotel, 1 Botley Road
  • 182-184 Abingdon Road
  • Scout Hall, 238 Marston Road
  • The Old Vicarage, 41 Lake Street, New Hinksey
  • United Reformed (formerly Congregational) Church, Temple Cowley

For more information, go to www.headingtonshark.com