PLANS to put a 12-metre mobile phone mast in front of the Oxford War Memorial in St Giles has been branded “sacrilege” by opponents.

Vodafone has submitted a planning application to place the mast at the north end of the Oxford street.

The news has outraged conservationists who said the proposal would damage a world-famous streetscape and ruin a beautiful Oxford view.

Nicholas Purcell, a don at St John’s College, said when people learnt about the “brutally insensitive” application they would be outraged.

He said: “The application inserts a very high pole in an especially sensitive part of the street, with a major impact on the famous view of St Giles’ Church and the War Memorial, while cluttering the island with an unsightly box.

“The design of the mast itself is particularly ugly, involving not only the pole, but a flat, flange-like superstructure of considerable size which is far more visible than the ‘street pole’ in the planning application.”

Mr Purcell, an ancient history don who is based in nearby Wellington Place, said: “This streetscape is of high architectural significance, ranking with the High Street and Broad Street as an essential part of the internationally important urban environment of central Oxford.

“The greatest care was taken some years ago over the design of the lighting columns. The environment is already threatened by ugly signage. Additions must be rejected.”

Debbie Dance, director of the Oxford Preservation Trust, said: “The suggestion that there should be a telecom mast sitting in front of the War Memorial, with its associated clutter, is nonsense.”

Meanwhile, a comment on the planning application said: “Placing it near the Martyrs Memorial is sacrilege.”

Ilana Clark, a spokesman for Vodafone, said: “Vodafone and O2 have decided that we will share network assets wherever we can, which will reduce the overall number of new base station locations for both parties and therefore reduce costs and follow the guidance set out in planning legislation.

“Our customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel. Base stations are low-powered devices which only cover approximately half a mile in radius and therefore we have to put base stations close to our customers.

“We need to improve the 3G coverage to our customers in Oxford and have proposed a base station on St Giles. To minimise visual intrusion, the proposed structure is as short as possible and has a slimline design.”

Jim Lewendon, 81, chairman of the Oxford group of the Royal British Legion, said many past and present members of the armed forces would be hurt and insulted if the mast was erected at the War Memorial.

He said: “I am very surprised that anyone could contemplate putting a mast there. These things can surely be placed more discreetly.”

It is understood the application does not contravene any planning rules and will be decided by councillors, not delegated to planning officers.