A Grade II listed church dating back to the days of the Domesday Book has become the subject of controversy after an application to place a phone mast on its rooftop was submitted.

Vodafone proposed removing an existing flagpole on top of Barnes’ St Mary’s Church and replacing it with a replica pole, housing communications antennae, according to a planning application submitted to Richmond Council.

Social biologist Joyce Morgan, of Dovecote Gardens, Mortlake, said she was shocked at the plans as she worried about health effects of telecommunications equipment.

Vodafone’s network facilitator team said it recognised some communities were concerned about radio base stations close to residential areas, but added without them mobile phones would not be able to work and assured residents its base stations met stringent international guidelines.

Mrs Morgan said: “I did a study of radiation [before] and as far as I know nothing has been proved that this radiation coming from these things are not harmless to human beings. Until they prove they are harmless I think they shouldn’t be erected.”

A spokesman from the Vodafone team said: “All of our base stations are designed, built and operated in accordance with stringent international guidelines laid down by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. 

“The adoption of these guidelines has the formal backing of independent bodies such as the World Health Organisation.”

St Mary’s Church, in Church Road, was seriously gutted by fire in 1978 but has since been rebuilt, incorporating elements of historical significance and is a well known landmark.

If given the go ahead, proposals would see the replacement of its existing 5.3m high timber flagpole with a replica incorporating three telecommunications antennae on the roof of the church tower.

According to the application, the flagpole would be coloured white to imitate the original feature and antennae would be camouflaged and views of the building would not be altered.

Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith has written a letter to the council questioning the proximity of telecommunications equipment to schools.

He wrote: “There are unknown health risks associated with these masts, and it is therefore important that they are placed as far away from children and residents as possible.”

The Vodafone spokesman added: “Typical public exposures from our base stations will be many hundreds, if not thousands, of times below these guidelines.”

Residents in Sutherland Grove, Teddington, have also been campaigning against a proposed T-Mobile mast on the roof of their flats.