The central ministry of the environment, headed by former Balearic leader Jaume Matas, is planning to purchase the Sa Canova estate in Artà, it was revealed yesterday. Matas said that it was an option which is being studied, but negotiations have not advanced very far and nothing has been signed as yet. Sa Canova is a protected area of great interest, with a wealth of flora and fauna. It falls within the Natural Park of Lleant, even though it is in private hands. The area was saved from development in the 1980s and again more recently when there were plans to build a golf course there, thanks to public pressure and demonstrations. The area's ecological importance makes it especially important, Matas said, although he did not say how much it would cost, or where the money would come from. The Balearic government has been using tourist tax funds to purchase land and historical buildings. Artà councillor Josep Silva said that the coastal authority (a department of the ministry) had contacted them to find out who the owners are. He added that it is complicated because the company promoting the development of the area has dissolved and it is difficult to know who the property belongs to. Mayor Montserrat Santandreu said that international capital and banks were involved, which complicated matters. However, he welcomed the news that the ministry was interested in purchasing the area. Santandreu pointed out that in 1989, Parliament approved a special protection plan for Sa Canova. He added that very few areas of Majorca, such as Es Trenc and S'Albufera, have such a degree of protection. There was an outcry when plans to develop Sa Canova were announced in the 1980s, and a campaign was organised involving the council, environmental groups and residents. It managed to have the area included in the law on natural spaces, which meant that building licences which had already been granted were cancelled.