Peter Gillies steps down as head of holiday parks: Here's what's going to happen now

Peter Gillies steps down as head of holiday parks: Here's what's going to happen now

Pay penalties, revoked permits, forced park closures, and multiple lawsuits. Peter Gillies and his company Oostappen Group Holiday Parks make the news several times a week. It was announced on Thursday that Gillis will leave his company “with pain in the heart.” What should happen next with the lawsuits and investigations surrounding the company?

The Oostappen group was purchased by the Gillis family in 1986. At that time, there were still about five hundred parking spaces in the first park, which is now called Vakantiepark Prinsenmeer. After purchasing holiday parks in Brabant, Belgium, Gelderland and Zeeland, the company now has eleven parks.

Raids on parks
Gillis's problems began in 2019. Raids were carried out on various Oostappen group parks. Management, cars and firearms, among other things, were confiscated.

In court in March this year, prosecutors stated that Gillis would allow people to remain unannounced in his gardens. According to the Public Prosecution, he collected the overnight stay money in cash. His daughter, Angie, ensured that the amounts remained out of management.

Gillis also allegedly failed to maintain payroll records for foreign employees and paid corporate taxes too late. At the hearing, Gillis's lawyer spoke of a “scam” carried out by prosecutors and tax authorities.

Housing for migrant workers
Gillis also made the mistake of sheltering migrant workers. For this reason many municipalities have initiated investigations against the Oostappen Group and imposed fines. For example, during the raid on the Brugge Heide holiday park, there were dozens of foreigners who were clearly not on holiday.

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As far as is known, an amount of over two million euros has been imposed in penalty payments. Gillis went to court to challenge this, but was repeatedly rebuffed. For example, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered him to pay a fine of 500,000 euros to the municipality of Asten and 200,000 euros to the municipality of Terneuzen. The €1 million penalty imposed on the municipality of Belle-en-Maas in Limburg also remained in effect.

Not the best relationship with the municipality
Gillis hoped to earn extra money by housing asylum seekers in his holiday parks. He urged many municipalities to use its parks to accommodate asylum seekers. But municipalities have repeatedly stated that they are not interested.

It is clear that Gillis does not have the best relationship with municipalities. For example, the Prinsenmeer holiday park does not comply with fire safety regulations and Gillies is said to be using the park in criminal matters. For this reason, the municipality of Asten has withdrawn all permits and the park must be closed. The vacationers have now left the park. Permanent residents will also have to leave eventually.

Conditions were so bad at Blaue Mer park in Lommel, Belgium, that a judge ruled in June last year that the holiday park must close within a year.

future
Gillis announced on Thursday that he would step down from his position as director of the Ostapen Group's eight Dutch parks. He remains the owner of the gardens and estates. A new theme park operator is said to have been found, but it is not known who he is.

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But since Gillis remains the owner, it doesn't really matter who the new operator is. The same permits are required which were previously obtained from Peter Gillies. If municipalities discover in their research that the new operator works closely with Gillis, the problems will simply not be solved.

It can take years
The various lawsuits against Gillis and his company could take years. Tax fraud cases are very complex and time consuming. This applies to the initial hearing of the case, after which appeal and cassation are also possible.

Not much can be said at the moment about the exact state of the company. This is mainly because Gillis has not submitted annual accounts to the Chamber of Commerce for years.

If you look at all the fine payments, the forced closures of parks, and the loss of various additional sources of income, the question is how healthy his company is.

In the map below you see an overview of known violations and lawsuits of Omroep Brabant in Oostappen Groep Gardens. You can also view the map via this link.

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