A mobile phone company plans to turn a church spire into a phone mast.

But the suggestion has sparked protests from people living near St Mary's Church in Goring, Worthing.

Hampshire company QS4 said in a letter to residents that the scheme was the "preferred local option".

John Horsey, church relationship manager of QS4, wrote: "The installation might well reduce the number of aerials required locally."

But Simon Barwick, of Ilex Way, said: "We are totally against this and aim to fight it, not only because we live right next to the church but we are thinking of all the children and adults who live in the area near to the church and who use the church and church hall everyday.

"According to the letter the church spire is the preferred local option'. No it is not. I don't know anyone with a mobile who has a signal problem around here."

Mr Horsey said: "Mobile phone companies are seeking to improve reception for mobile phone users and to provide the new 3G services.

"The installation would be managed and built by QS4, which has a thorough knowledge and understanding of all aspects of the industry.

Safety "They are committed to the highest standards of health and safety and respect for the life and mission of the church.

"It is likely that one installation inside the church would do the job of several lower masts sited more conspicuously around the neighbourhood.

"Base stations are already installed in several churches around the country without any problems.

"The installation would have no visual effect on the neighbourhood, with the antennae inside the spire.

"The equipment cabinets would be either within the spire or discreetly located close to the spire."

The Rev Andrew Tremlett, vicar of Goring, said: "We are at a very early stage of the proposal. We have taken the initiative and tried to find out people's views.

"Obviously there will be those for and against.

"I understand that people will have concerns but millions of people are using mobile phones every day.

"The income from it is not huge, about £5,000 a year, about three or four per cent of our income. It would certainly help but it is not a make or break situation."

Final approval for the scheme would have to be given by the Diocese of Chichester.

People are being asked to submit their comments by December 4.

St Mary's dates back to the 12th century although most of the existing church was built in 1837.

Worthing Borough Council said it had not yet received an application.