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House with 25ft shark sticking out of roof banned from Airbnb

The iconic Headington Shark House was rented out for £1,000 a night.

The Shark House can no longer be booked on AirBNB. (SWNS)
The Headington Shark House in Oxford can no longer be booked on Airbnb. (SWNS)

The public can no longer rent an iconic house with a 25ft shark sticking out of the roof after it was banned from Airbnb.

The quirky property in Oxford – widely known as the Headington Shark House – had been available as a short-term let on the booking site for the last five years, renting for as much as £1,000 a night. But owner Magnus Hanson-Heine, who inherited it from his father and its creator Bill Heine, has now been ordered to remove it as a listing as he doesn't have the right planning permission.

Since its installation in 1986, the property became a tourist attraction, with visitors coming to see the Jaws-like installation crashing head-first through the roof. It had secured rave reviews from Airbnb guests with a 4.86 rating. The listing stated the house could sleep up to 10 people.

Read more: The story behind the viral shark poking out of Headington roof (Oxford Mail)

Councillor Linda Smith, Oxford City Council's cabinet member for housing, said: "Where properties have changed from being residential homes to becoming short-let businesses without planning approval, we do take enforcement action. We live in one the least affordable places for housing in the UK. There are nearly 800 properties let out entirely as short lets in Oxford and we need those for people to live in and not as holiday accommodation."

Oxford City Council has been contacted for a comment.

The late Bill Heine outside his house. (SWNS)
The late Bill Heine outside his house. (SWNS)

The late Bill Heine installed the shark statue on top of his property in secret in 1986 – beginning a six-year planning row with Oxford City Council. The local authority refused retrospective planning permission two years later before the-then secretary of state for the environment, Michael Heseltine, intervened to allow it to stay.

Bill Heine died in 2019, aged 74, and his son Magnus Hanson-Heine reignited his late father's battle with the authorities when he protested against it being added to a list of cultural assets. He has now launched a fresh fight after being told Airbnb blocked the house as he had failed to get permission to change its use from a permanent residence to a temporary one.

Hanson-Heine said he was now appealing the decision with the National Planning Inspectorate and that the property would remain open to visitors until this appeal was heard. He previously spoke of his fears when the home was added to a Heritage Asset Register and said it was "a stepping stone" towards getting it listed – meaning more planning controls.

He said: "My father always resisted giving any conclusive answer to the question what was the meaning of it. It was designed to make people think for themselves, and decide for themselves what is art. But it was anti-censorship in the form of planning laws specifically."

The Shark House was rented out for as much as £1,000 a night. (SWNS)
The Shark House was rented out for as much as £1,000 a night. (SWNS)
The property is officially listed as a heritage asset. (SWNS)
The property is officially listed as a heritage asset. (SWNS)

The history of the Shark House

  • 1986: Bill Heine installs the fibreglass statue by sculptor John Buckley on top of his property in secret. Oxford City Council initially tries to have the sculpture removed, stating that it is a safety hazard and does not have planning permission.

  • 1990: Heine submits a planning application but the council's planning committee denies it.

  • 1992: Heine continues to battle Oxford City Council for retrospective planning permission, which is granted following an appeal.

  • 2016: Heine's son Magnus Hanson-Heine buys the Shark House and rents it as an Airbnb guesthouse two years later.

  • 2019: Bill Heine dies aged 74, but his son continues to battle authorities over the building.

  • 2022: The property is officially listed as a heritage asset despite protests from Hanson-Heine.

  • 2023: Hanson-Heine is required to seek retrospective planning permission for the change of use of the property from residential to short-stay accommodation, but the application is denied.

  • 2024: The Headington Shark House is delisted from Airbnb.