MOBILE phone company, O2, wants to put a mobile phone antenna on the top of the Grade I listed St Cross Church.

New Edge Telecommunications, acting for the firm, has asked the church's 13 volunteer trustees for their views.

They are due to hold their next quarterly meeting on Tuesday when they will discuss it for the first time.

O2 wants to replace the flagpole on the tower of the historic church in St Cross with a new one. It would be the same height, but slightly wider, at nine inches rather than 11, to house the antenna. The firm's community liaison officer, Jim Stevenson, said: "It would be a 3G mast and, having checked our coverage, there is a gap in this area we would like to cover.

"We've had a look at quite a few alternative sites, but they were dismissed for technical reasons. We aim to consult people who live nearby over the next few weeks."

The church is also inviting residents and parishioners to have their say. The plans are on display in the office of Piers Armstrong, clerk to the trustees.

He said: "NET searches for locations that might benefit mobile phone companies, and on O2's behalf, they've asked us if they could put up a new flagpole in place of the existing one."

He added that they had asked Hampshire County Council and English Heritage for comments and neither had objected.

He said: "The architect who works for the trustees has looked at it, because we're dealing with a Grade I listed church here, but as far as she was concerned, it wouldn't damage the fabric of the building."

Mr Armstrong said the trustees would have three options at their private meeting on Tuesday: to support the antenna, reject it or request more details.

If the trustees back the scheme, it would still need to be rubber-stamped by the Diocese of Winchester and approved by Winchester City Council planners, he said.

O2 aims to submit an application in early October. If successful, it would then pay an annual rent to the church. The fee will be one of the issues discussed by the trustees.

The church, along with the adjoining hospital, which is England's oldest almshouse and currently has 25 residents, was founded in 1136 by Henry de Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror.

As well as being one of Winchester's top tourist venues, the historic collection of mediaeval and Tudor buildings is thought to be one of England's oldest charitable institutions.

For centuries, travellers have claimed bread and ale, known as the Wayfarers' Dole, which is a tradition that continues to this day.