Chichester Cathedral has responded to criticism that its sacred green has been turned into a ‘complete mudbath’ by workmen.
Scaffolding is currently going up so urgent £5.8m roof repairs can begin.
Contractors DBR Ltd have set up a compound on the green and vehicles entering and leaving have left deep mud track marks close to gravestones.
A cathedral spokesperson said bad weather had played a part but the route for heavy vehicles followed a reinforced trackway alongside the Cathedral, and no historic buried remains had been damaged.
Ruth Poyner from the Cathedral said: “The urgent works to re-cover the Cathedral roof require a substantial scaffold and temporary roof, for safe access and to protect the ancient fabric.
“The construction of the scaffold involves significant activity at ground level, hence the need for the contractor’s compound.
“The route to the compound uses a pre-existing reinforced trackway, installed a few years ago to give heavy vehicles close access to the building.
“The works were carefully planned to avoid any damage to precious historic and buried remains below ground level.
“All the relevant approvals have also been obtained, from the local planning authority and the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England.
“Inclement weather, as we have had recently, generates mud but the contractor is improving this wherever possible and the surface will be reinstated on completion of the works.”
However, a concerned Chichester resident, who asked not to be named, said: “It is becoming a complete mudbath.
“The site manager said there was nothing in the contract about having to protect the land. It’s heartbreaking to look at.
“This is consecrated land.”
The restoration project is believed to be the largest in Chichester Cathedral’s 900-year-history.
Once scaffolding is fully erected, the first phase will start to re-cover and restore the Quire, South Transept, Nave and North Transept, work expected to last 46 weeks.
The failing, leaky copper roofs will be replaced with lead while saving as much of the precious medieval timber as possible.
The whole project is set to last for around four years, planning documents state.