THE prospect of a 15-metre mobile phone mast in the middle of Oxford’s historic High Street has infuriated colleges and businesses.

Workmen this week began digging a large hole in a traffic island outside All Souls College to test the feasibility of putting up a large mast in the city’s world famous thoroughfare.

Traders and colleges had been working with councils to restore the High Street to its former glory after complaining of street clutter, but they have been left angry by the plan and say they were not warned about the work.

Elizabeth Crawford, domestic bursar at University College, said: “It transpires that despite the noise and dust caused by this investigation, there is no requirement for Oxfordshire County Council to either warn people who live and work in the vicinity, or to consult them.”

The bursar said she was “astonished” to find the proposed mast would be 15m tall.

She added: “The emphasis has been on the decluttering of signage and re-establishing the original intention of the classic line and layout. There are many people who would regard such an installation as unacceptable.”

Jeremy Mogford, owner of the Old Bank Hotel and Quod restaurant, said: “The idea of a mast there is simply appalling.

“It beggars belief. It’s like someone has a perverted sense of humour. Will we next be seeing 20 masts on the tower of St Mary the Virgin?”

Vodafone spokesman, Dr Rob Matthews, said his company and O2 were seeking to improve the 3G coverage in central Oxford so customers could access high speed mobile broadband and smartphone services.

He said: “We have undertaken some pre-application consultation with the local planning authority and ward councillors and are assessing this feedback before submitting the planning application.”

Keith Mitchell, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “My personal view is that sounds like a monstrous carbuncle on the High.

“If there is a full application, it will have to go to planning committee.”

l Vodafone has withdrawn a planning application to put a 12-metre mobile phone mast in front of Oxford’s War Memorial in St Giles, after it was branded as “sacrilege”.

The plan, submitted to Oxford City Council in January, outraged conservationists who said the proposal would damage a world famous streetscape and ruin a beautiful Oxford view.