Flemish government gives Harry Potter event thumbs down

Flemish environment minister Zuhal Demir (nationalist) has indicated no repeat of the Harry Potter Experience at the Groenenberg Estate in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw in Flemish Brabant will be tolerated.  For three months the estate was the venue for a special Harry Potter themed winter walk, but the minister insists damage to the local environment and the impact on the surroundings was too great.


Tens of thousands of visitors descended on the estate to discover the magical world of Harry Potter.  Hundreds of loudspeakers were installed as well as mobile dolls, projections and light installations.  Minister Demir says the event was on too large a scale for the environment.

The organisation behind the Harry Potter Experience says it’s committed to environmental preservation and wanted to ensure the event ran in harmony with the environment.  It points to “close co-operation” with the Agency for Nature and Forest. Special areas were set out to ensure zero footfall required by some species of plant and tree. Visitors also had the opportunity to donate the price of a tree to contribute towards the creation of additional forests.


Local residents complained of three months of noise, light and music in the wood.  Mayor Desmeth concedes the nature and woodland agency underestimated the impact: “We’d prefer not to see any more such large events at Groenenberg Castle” he told VRT.


According to the mayor the organisation flouted the rules.  Unemployed people and undocumented migrants were discovered at work.

The organisers also say that to the best of their knowledge no inappropriate labour practices were identified at the Experience and the checks that were carried out were regular checks.


The Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience at Sint-Pieters-Leeuw was a first in continental Europe.  Earlier Warner Bros built similar events in England and the States.  In Belgium the organisation ran into difficulty.  Residents but also visitors voiced disquiet.  In December the park had to close for several days due to technical glitches.  Tickets weren’t refunded, but duped visitors received a voucher.


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