THE owner of a house with a 25ft shark plunging through its roof is locked in a bitter battle with the council.
Magnus Hanson-Heine, 34, inherited the Headington Shark in Oxford from his late dad Bill, who commissioned the artwork without planning permission in 1986.
Magnus Hanson-Heine said he was furious at the council for trying to get involved with his massive shark statue sticking out of his houseCredit: Peter Manning
The huge fibreglass and steel fish was installed in secret to protest against censorship, state warfare and planning restrictions, resulting in a six-year-long battle to keep the sculpture up.
But after attracting hundreds of visitors from around the world every year since, the Headington Shark has been nominated to appear on the Oxford Heritage Asset Register run by Oxford City Council – going against everything it stands for.
Magnus today told The Sun Online he was furious at the council for trying to swoop in.
He explained: “The fact that it’s wrapped up in this friendly package of ‘there’s this local landmark that everyone loves and here we are protecting it for the future’, it’s quite compelling as a story.
“If you think of it as a tourist attraction, which I’m sure many people do, then you’ll think what the council is trying to do is a good thing.
“So you have to be pretty aware of exactly what the shark message is.
“I think it’s political manoeuvring at best and actually it almost feels like they are stealing my house.”
And he said he was furious the council was “missing the point”.
Speaking to the Sun, he said: “One of the points of the sculpture was around specifically making sure planners couldn’t determine what art people were and weren’t allowed to see.
“This is the same thing again in reverse. They are attempting to co-opt the idea.
“It seems to me, what the city council is doing is using planning laws, maybe for their own glorification, to ‘preserve’ a rather famous planning law defiance.
“Which would seem to be completely missing and undermining the point of the sculpture, really doing the opposite of preserving it at all.”
The Oxford Heritage Asset Register includes buildings, structures, features or places, which make a special contribution to Oxford through their historic, architectural or artistic interest.
It does not place any extra legal requirements on owners but can “help to influence planning decisions in a way that conserves and enhances local character”.
Magnus, however, believes controlling the Shark in such a way would diminish its meaning all together.
The fact that it’s wrapped up in this friendly package of ‘there’s this local landmark that everyone loves and here we are protecting it for the future’, it’s quite compelling as a story.
Magnus said his dad was partly inspired to create the Shark after the council made him remove a pair of giant can-can legs on his Moulin Rouge cinema across the road from the house.
He said a “planning fight” broke out, prompting dad Bill and sculptor John Buckley to come up with the “disruptive” Shark art.
It appears history is now repeating itself, with Magnus terrified the potential local heritage status could act as a “precursor” to a national listing – meaning even more control for the Headington Shark.
“The city council has made rumblings before suggesting that,” Magnus said.
“So there’s sort of a push behind the scenes to get it listed on a national basis. Of which this is the first step.”
‘NO OPTION TO SAY NO’
The Quantum chemist, who rents the Shark House out to guests on Airbnb, claims the authority only alerted him to an online consultation about the local heritage nominations shortly before Christmas, only giving him until the end of December to submit his complaints.
To make matters worse, he says the consultation form asking for responses made it very difficult to dispute anything at all.
“It basically doesn’t give you the option to say no,” he said.
“It only asks whether the listing is accurate and whether the property brings value to the area – which it does.
“So in order to object you would have to effectively lie and say you don’t think it has value.”
Oxford City Council said their consultation went live on November 19 last year, with the deadline extended from December originally, to January 26 2022.
They claim they sent out letters to notify all property owners that had been nominated in November 2021, before the consultation opened.
A spokesperson for Oxford City Council added: “There’s quite a tale behind the shark.
“The response to the consultation has been Jaws-dropping. We’ll take on board everyone’s views before making a fin-al decision.”
Responding to the council’s comment, Magnus said: “There is of course a funny side to all this, but the city council haven’t given people the option to say ‘no’.
“It’s easy to laugh when you’re taking something that isn’t yours.”
You can read more about Headington Shark House here.
The homeowner said he was furious the council was swooping inCredit: Peter Manning
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