Peter Gillis’ Prinsenmeer park has to close: how did it come to this?

The closure of the Prinsenmeer holiday park in Ommel by the municipality is yet another blow that owner Peter Gillis has had to take. This time a direct punch that hits harder than all the taps before. What happened before the holiday park magnate’s flagship?

Prinsenmeer was the place where it all started for Peter Gillis. The family bought the park in 1986. At that time the holiday park with a modest 500 places was still called Vakantiepark Strandbad Oostappen.

Prinsenmeer is the showpiece
It was the first holiday park of the Oostappen Group, which later renamed the holiday home Prinsenmeer. The park now has 1,700 pitches: from chalets to camping pitches for tents and caravans.

Around 2000, the Oostappen Group empire started to grow. The company took over a holiday park every few years. The Oostappen Group now has twelve holiday parks, but Peter Gillis’ baby Prinsenmeer remains the showpiece of the company. The head office of the Oostappen Group is also a stone’s throw away in Asten.

The problems started four years ago
The misery for Peter Gillis and his Oostappen Group started in 2019. The FIOD (Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service), tax authorities, Public Prosecution Service, police and the municipality of Asten then raided several parks, including the Prinsenmeer and the Oostappen Group head office. The administration and a number of cars were seized. A firearm was found in a park in Arnhem.

For years it was unclear what Gillis is suspected of. Only this year, after four years of investigation, did it become known that he was suspected of tax fraud. The company is said to have provided incorrect and incomplete information to the tax authorities. The Oostappen Group has also not submitted annual accounts to the Chamber of Commerce since 2016.

Problems with migrant workers
Peter Gillis knows how to turn a dime into a quarter, as can be read in his book ‘Peter Gillis: mass is cash register’. To earn some extra money, he lets migrant workers live at a number of holiday parks, including Prinsenmeer. Nearly four hundred, mainly Polish workers lived in chalets in the park. This has been happening since 2009.

The municipality of Asten did not want it and rejected requests to legalize it. In 2019, the municipality of Asten announced that the migrant workers had to leave the holiday park within two months. The municipality imposed a penalty of half a million euros. The last migrant workers left in April 2021.

Another tap on the fingers
A few years later, Peter Gillis was hit on the knuckles again. Fire safety at the park is said to be inadequate. The chalets are too close together, which could easily cause the fire to spread in the event of a fire. After a number of checks, nothing had changed in the situation. Gillis was given a final warning and had until now to make the park safer. It is not known whether that happened.

It is no longer important, because on Wednesday the municipality decided that the park must be closed. According to the municipality, Peter Gillis would use the park for the wrong things. Therefore, all permits have been revoked. All holidaymakers must have left the park before Friday. People who live there illegally must also leave.

As far as the municipality is concerned, the closure is final, but Gillis can still object, appeal and appeal against the decision.