Center Parcs

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Center Parcs Logo from 1997 to today.
An original Center Parcs Cottage (named 'Villas' in UK resorts), designed by the Dutch architect Jaap Bakema.
Dutch Center Parcs entrance (at De Eemhof).
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise in Elveden Forest, Suffolk, UK.
Wild water rapids at Center Parcs Het Meerdal (NL).
The former church at CP Het Vennenbos. Because Derksen was a Catholic, he decided to build small churches at his parks. There was a similar church at Elveden Forest which has since been converted into a Starbucks.

Center Parcs is a European network of holiday villages incorporating a UK-based company, Center Parcs UK, which runs holiday villages in the United Kingdom and a sister enterprise, Center Parcs Europe, that operates in numerous locations in continental Europe. In 2009 Center Parcs Europe divided its parks into two brands: "Center Parcs", which includes the 5-star parks, and "Sunparks", which includes the 3- or 4-star parks. At the beginning of 2011 the company decided to rename most Sunparks as Center Parcs.


A Dutch entrepreneur, Piet Derksen, started a sporting goods shop in 1953 at the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam. Its name was 'Sporthuis Centrum', 'Sport House Centre'. It succeeded and Derksen expanded into 17 outfits across the Netherlands. He added camping articles to his range.

In 1968, Piet Derksen purchased woodland near Reuver so staff and customers could relax in small tents. The park, De Lommerbergen, was successful, the tents were quickly replaced by bungalows.

There are now 25 resorts in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany and the UK.

Accommodation in Center Parcs is in villas or bungalows. These are clustered in a park and surrounded by trees and bushes. An exception is Park Zandvoort, set among sand dunes. Certain resorts also provide hotel rooms.

The facilities available at Center Parcs vary. All offer a swimming pool, named Subtropical Swimming Paradise in UK resorts and Aqua Mundo in European resorts. A range of sporting activities is available, with restaurants, spas, saunas, and massage.


No two villages are identical, however most share features that are common, the first village had features that have stayed popular like the swimming pool, shops and restaurants. The dome arrived in 1980[citation needed]. Gradually the facilities have changed as time progresses.

UK ownership[edit]

See also: Center Parcs UK

In 2001, Scottish and Newcastle sold the UK side of Center Parcs to venture capitalists. It was announced on 4 December 2003 that the owners, Mid Ocean, would sell the UK resorts to Arbor for £285 million. Arbor was set up to purchase Center Parcs and float it on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market.

In May 2006 Center Parcs UK Group PLC was sold to Blackstone Group, an American private investment company. Subsequently Center Parcs was re-registered as a private company, a subsidiary of Blackstone Group. The chief executive, Martin Dalby, said that the company might add a fifth village. Late in 2004 it was announced it would be built in Woburn in Bedfordshire. Planning permission was initially turned down but Center Parcs won on appeal.[1]

Whinfell Forest was originally built and operated by the Rank Organisation, as the sole competition to Center Parcs in the UK, however, after a short period of a few years, Oasis, as Rank had named it, was sold to Center Parcs. Whinfell Forest is not of the same build type as the traditional Center Parcs. Whinfell Forest lodges are mainly two storey and many are set in clusters, rather than off-set terraces. This means guests in a cluster have direct view of adjacent lodges, with less privacy. Center Parcs have updated many Whinfell Forest lodges and continue to add new lodges of an identical style to new lodges at their other UK parks, so now there are also many villas at Whinfell Forest the same style as in Sherwood Forest, Elveden Forest or Longleat Forest.

All activities, at all parks, except swimming and playgrounds, are charged, per use, ranging from <£5 to £80+ per person.

Corporate ownership[edit]

Centerparcs Europe[2] and Centerparcs UK share only history, name and logo.

In 2003 Scottish & Newcastle sold the European branch to a joint venture of Pierre et Vacances (P&V) and DBCP, a German investment group. This was given the name CenterParcs Europe (CPE). P&V owned Europe's largest (in terms of bed-count) bungalow-vacation-supplier, Gran Dorado Resorts, a Dutch former joint venture of Vendex,[3] Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds, GAK and Philips Rentefonds. P&V brought Gran Dorado in the joint venture. CPE was based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and the Dutch and European Commercial Competition Authority[4] did not approve of combining Gran Dorado and CenterParcs. They would almost control the European market. The authority demanded fewer beds. This resulted in sale of all but six Gran Dorado Resorts to Dutch Landal GreenParks.[5] The remaining six parks were added to the CenterParcs. These were Loohorst (NL), Port Zelande (NL), Zandvoort (NL), Weerterbergen (NL), Hochsauerland (D) and Heilbachsee (D).

After the sale, the Gran Dorado flag flew at Gran Dorado Resorts until January 1, 2003. By this date, all sold parks were rebranded Landal and five of the six remaining parks were rebranded Sea Spirit from Center Parcs or Free Life from Center Parcs. All original Center Parcs resorts in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany were sub-branded CP Original. The Weerterbergen-Resort was sold to Roompot[6] in 2002 because of the cost of bringing it to standard be. From 1 January 2003, Gran Dorado Resorts-Brand was no longer used.

In 2003, Deutsche Bank Capital Partners (DBCP) was bought out of the joint venture by Pierre & Vacances. The French are now sole owners of Center Parcs Europe.

The sub-branding ended in 2006 with another rebranding. From 2006 season, all resorts were branded Center Parcs. In January 2009, Sunparks launched alongside Center Parcs in Europe.The sites improved and had the Sunparks brand applied. Sunparks is a low-cost version. A number of the former Gran Dorado resorts are now under this umbrella.

New UK site[edit]

In December 2004, Center Parcs UK identified a fifth UK site, at Warren Wood near Flitwick, Bedfordshire. It had signed a lease from its owner, the Duke of Bedford. The project was expected to cost £160 million, including construction of accommodation, indoor and outdoor facilities, swimming complex, restaurants and a spa. It is expected to take three to four years to complete. Planning permission was granted on 5 September 2007 although the price has risen to £230 million. Construction started in 2012 and the village opened on 6 June 2014.[7]

New Irish Site[edit]

In April 2015, Center Parcs UK announced its intention to build a new site in County Longford, Ireland. It is expected to open in 2019.[8]

All resorts[edit]

Center Parcs UK and Center Parcs Europe consist of 25 resorts and Sunparks of 4. Also, there are four parks in development, and one park will be taken over from Landal Greenparks.

Country Resort City / Village Region/County Year opened Added to portfolio Details
 Netherlands Het Meerdal America Limburg 1971 -
 Netherlands De Huttenheugte Dalen Drenthe 1972 -
 Netherlands De Eemhof Zeewolde Flevoland 1980 - The first Center Parcs resort to contain a Subtropical Swimming Paradise. Closed in May 2000 due to a huge fire that completely destroyed the central plaza area and Swimming Pool. Re-opened in March 2002 with a new Mediterranean market square and Aqua Mundo after extensive re-building.
 Netherlands De Kempervennen Westerhoven North Brabant 1983 -
 Netherlands Het Heijderbos Heijen Limburg 1986 -
 Netherlands Port Zélande Ouddorp South Holland 1990 2002
 Netherlands Limburgse Peel America Limburg 1980 2002 Formerly Sunparks Limburgse Peel
 Netherlands Zandvoort Zandvoort North Holland 1989 2002 Formerly Sunparks Zandvoort aan Zee
 Netherlands Sandur Emmen Drenthe 1999 2011 Taken over from Landal Greenparks; Formerly Sunparks Sandur Drenthe
 Belgium Erperheide Peer Limburg 1981 -
 Belgium De Vossemeren Lommel Limburg 1987 -
 Germany Eifel Gunderath Rhineland-Palatinate 1979 2002 Formerly Sunparks Eifel
 Germany Nordseeküste Tossens Lower Saxony 1992 2002 Formerly Sunparks Nordseeküste
 Germany Park Hochsauerland Medebach North Rhine-Westphalia 1994 2002
 Germany Bispinger Heide Bispingen Lower Saxony 1995 -
 France Les Bois-Francs Verneuil-sur-Avre Upper Normandy 1988 -
 France Les Hauts de Bruyères Chaumont-sur-Tharonne Centre 1993 -
 France Le Lac d'Ailette Chamouille Picardy 2007 -
 France Les Trois Forêts Hattigny Lorraine 2010 -
 United Kingdom Sherwood Forest Rufford (near Mansfield) Nottinghamshire 1987 -
 United Kingdom Elveden Forest Elveden Suffolk 1989 - Closed in April 2002 after a fire destroyed the plaza area, though the subtropical swimming paradise was unharmed. Re-opened again in July 2003 after a major re-build to the village square which separates the new Piazza and Sports Plaza.
 United Kingdom Longleat Forest Warminster Wiltshire 1994 -
 United Kingdom Whinfell Forest Penrith Cumbria 1997 2002 Formerly Oasis, bought from Center Parcs UK's competitor, Rank Organisation.
 United Kingdom Woburn Forest Millbrook Bedfordshire 2014 -
Parks from the Sunparks Brand
 Belgium Sunparks Oostduinkerke Oostduinkerke West Flanders 1981 2007
 Belgium De Haan De Haan West Flanders 1989 2007
 Belgium Sunparks Ardennen Vielsalm Luxembourg 1992 2007 Formerly Sunparks Vielsalm
 Belgium Sunparks Kempense Meren Mol Antwerpen 1994 2007
Parks in development
 Germany Sunparks Bostalsee Nohfelden Saarland 2013 -
 Germany Allgau Leutkirch Baden Württemberg 2013 -
 France Bois aux daims Les Trois-Moutiers, Morton Poitou-Charente 2010 2015
 France La Forêt de Chambaran Roybon Rhône-Alpes 2013 -
 France Forêt du Rousset Le Rousset Bourgogne 2014 2017
 France Forêt de Poligny Poligny Franche-Comté 2014 2018
 Ireland Newcastle Woods Ballymahon Longford 2019 -
  • In case of the former Gran Dorado Resorts, the 2002 "Added to portfolio"-date refers to the year these resorts were brought into the joint venture, although they were not re-branded as Center Parcs until 2003.

Three former Center Parcs sites were sold because they could not be expanded. They are now part of the Landal greenparks operation; they still continue to be used and have had some refurbishment:

Country Resort City / Village Region/County Year opened Year Sold
 Netherlands De Lommerbergen Reuver Limburg 1968 1996
 Netherlands Het Vennenbos Hapert North Brabant 1970 1994
 Netherlands De Berkenhorst Kootwijk Gelderland 1975 1990

Name differences[edit]

UK Resorts European Resorts
Subtropical Swimming Paradise Aqua Mundo
Jardin Des Sports/Sports Plaza Sports Hall
Plaza/Piazza/Village Square Market Dome
Lodges/Villas Cottages
Wild Water Rapids Wild River
Flumes and Slides Tobbogans
Leisure Bowl Bowling
Parc Market Market
Lakeview Hotel (Elveden Forest) Hotel du Lac (Les Bois-Francs)
Aqua Sana The Spa
The Pancake House Pancake Shop

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BBC article from September 2007 detailing the granting of planning permission
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Center Parcs Welcomes First Guests to Woburn Forest". Center Parcs. Retrieved 8 June 2014.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  8. ^ "Center Parcs is Coming to Ireland". 

External links[edit]