ONE of Oxford’s most bizarre and controversial figures is about to celebrate its 25th birthday.

The famous Headington Shark has caused bewilderment, anger and a lot of interest since it was unveiled on August 9, 1986.

But despite councillors vowing to bring it down, the 25ft fibreglass sculpture has since gone on to be hailed “an icon of England”.

It was created by sculptor John Buckley and was fixed to the home of BBC Radio Oxford presenter Bill Heine in New High Street.

The headless sculpture, called Untitled 1986, was erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Oxford City Council threatened to remove the shark by force, prompting Mr Heine to take the issue to a public inquiry.

His appeal for planning permission was later granted by Michael Heseltine, who said “even though the shark is large, prominent and out of character with both the appeal building and its surroundings, it is not gravely detrimental to visual amenity in this particular location”.

In his appeal to the then-Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr Heine wrote: “The shark had brought fame and happiness to New High Street.

“People spoke to each other and friendships had been made. Children loved it.”

In 2009 the shark was nominated as an “Icon of England” and people from Headington and Oxford yesterday praised the unusual sculpture.

Neil Holdstock, from the Headington Business Community, said: “The shark is what life should be all about. Utterly brilliant, and totally inoffensive or intrusive.”

City councillor for Headington, Ruth Wilkinson, said: “It still takes my breath away when I see it. Happy birthday shark, you’re a Headington legend.”

Leader of Oxford City Council Bob Price added: “It's a quirky and eccentric contribution to the architectural mix that makes Oxford the exciting place it is.”

Others were less keen on the sculpture.

MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith said: “On the one hand it’s certainly dramatic and became a bit of a tourist attraction. On the other, thank goodness everyone is not allowed to flaunt the planning regulations in this way.”

Mr Heine was unavailable for comment.