PROTESTERS have blocked attempts to upgrade a controversial phone mast sited in the tower of a Wirral church.

When engineers from telephone giant Orange turned up at Manor Church in Liscard early on Sunday morning to replace the 2G Antenna with an even stronger 3G mast they were met by a crowd of more than 40 nearby residents who blocked their path. Three hours later the workers left without being able to erect the mast.

Dr Tom Bolton from Manor Egremont Mast Action Group, who have been opposed to the mast since it was installed in 2005 organised Sunday's protest. He told the Globe: "We would like to thank our local police for their presence and the excellent way they conducted the policing of this peaceful protest.

"We were shocked by reports from attendees of increases of people who have suddenly become ill with cancers since the installation of the 2G hidden in the church tower and transmitting since early 2006."

The mast was built in October, 2005, but many nearby residents were unaware of the situation. Despite many meetings and a petition containing thousands of signatures Orange have refused to remove the mast.

Dr Bolton added: "Orange say there is no proof that these masts cause ill health even though there are hundreds of scientists and experts worldwide now convinced that they are a hazard when placed in highly populated areas.

"Also there are many thousands of reports worldwide from people living close by these masts of increases in cancers and other life threatening diseases."

Conservative councillor Leah Fraser, who was among the protestors said: "If Orange, or any other mobile phone company, want to get one over us, they'll have to get up earlier. They have learned nothing from the last 18 months.

"Our peaceful protest outside the church, supported by 40 local people, is a very clear signal to Orange that this is not a suitable location for such a high-powered mast.

"It is a densely-populated residential area and they have failed, time and time again, to look at more suitable alternatives.

"Dr Bolton is to be congratulated for his vigilance and I would urge Orange, to be a bit more open."