The Government rejects accusations made by the GSD in respect of Parson’s Lodge and the contractors who operate the site. The Government is fully satisfied that the contractors fulfill their contract obligations well over and above the call of duty. It is disingenuous, misleading and wrong to imply that the contractor receives £1 million per annum for the running of Parson’s Lodge. This is simply not the case.
Parson’s Lodge has been run as a Field Centre by the Gibraltar National Museum since 2007. The site had been previously open to the public and run by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. The site was handed back to Government then as there were too few visitors to make the site a viable touristic proposition. In the absence of finding a use for the site, the museum took it over as a field centre, with facilities to house visiting scientists and students working in the Gorham’s Cave project. The site was also used to store large heritage items, such as anchors and cannon, found in Gibraltar and which needed to be kept in a safe location. At no time was the museum required to open Parson’s Lodge as a tourist site. The decision to operate Parson’s Lodge in this sustainable manner gave the site a use while ensuring the protection of the monument. The Government reminds the GSD that this modus operandi was initiated by the GSD itself and that it is therefore hypocritical to now criticize it.
The Government recently announced that Parson’s Lodge would be opened as a Natural History Museum, thus taking the development of the Gibraltar National Museum beyond its premises at Bomb House Lane, where space is at a premium. In doing so, an imaginative attempt was being made to find further sustainable uses for the site, this time looking for ways in which the current operation as a Field Centre could be expanded to give it a public access function. The works currently being done at the site are related to plans to achieve this end: as a museum, providing interpretation and making it suitable for public access. They are not a reflection of neglect at all, and the fabric of the monument itself remains in excellent condition. Now that the site is being prepared for opening to the public, some of the large items stored there are being moved to an alternative storage area. Some items, such as old bunk beds, are being removed as they are surplus to requirements. During the pandemic the accommodation facility was also temporarily closed, and when it reopened, the decision was taken to reduce the number of beds available given the COVID experience. This is why teams visiting are now smaller and why the field season was extended, to four months in 2023, to compensate. The additional beds were stored at the site in case they were needed and are now being removed as part of the current works. In no way is this a case of having the place abandoned or in a state of neglect.
The Minister for Heritage, the Hon Prof John Cortes, said: ‘The Government has been answering questions repeatedly put to it in Parliament regarding the work carried out by the Gibraltar National Museum’s contractors, who also operate the Gorham’s Cave Complex UNESCO World Heritage Site. To keep attacking its contractor, even after all questions put to Government have been answered in Parliament, is tantamount to bullying and unfair treatment of a company that has served Government well for three decades, including the period when the GSD themselves were in government.’