The government subsidies paid to king Willem-Alexander for managing the Het Loo country estate between 2016 and 2021 were legal, the highest Dutch company court said on Tuesday.
Animal protection group Faunabescherming had taken the issue to court, arguing that the money, totaling €4.8 million, had not been awarded in line with the rules.
In particular, the organisation said that part of the estate is closed to the public for several months, and was not, therefore eligible for grants to ensure public access. The closure, the group said, was not done in the interests of wildlife but to enable the king to go hunting.
The court ruled, however, that the part of the grant allocated to ensuring public access was not spent on that section of the estate and that the king himself pays for the upkeep of the area which is closed to the public for three months a year.
The estate, in the Veluwe heathland region, is closed from September 15th to December 25th every year for what were known as ‘privacy reasons’. In 2021, the state information service admitted the closure is for hunting and that some members of the royal family and their guests do hunt under supervision, if they have a licence.
Het Loo used to belong to the king’s great grandmother, queen Wilhelmina who handed over 6,700 hectare domain to the state in 1959 on the condition that the royals could have the use of the land.
The rules for the subsidies were changed in 2022, and the king successfully applied for €4.5 million in government subsidies towards the upkeep part of the estate which is always open.
Locals, animal protection organisations and political parties have campaigned for public access all the year round for years.
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