Down District is the seventh largest of Northern Ireland's 26 District Councils with a population of nearly 60 000. The economy is dependent on agriculture and especially tourism - the Down coast is renowned for its rugged beauty - although pockets of unemployment commonly reach 50%. Most tourism infrastructure and thus tourist revenue is concentrated in the seaside holiday resort of Newcastle with its traditional beach-side attractions, championship golf course and easy access to the scenic Mountains of Mourne.
The District Council is seeking to capitalise on the opportunities likely to follow the developing peace process in Northern Ireland but there are potential difficulties which a coastal zone strategy expects to help resolve. First, there is tension between the residents of Newcastle and the District Council following publication of a development plan perceived to be designed primarily for tourists. Second, there is the need to encourage private investment to upgrade Newcastle's dated infrastructure. And third, it is essential to combat serious beach erosion in Dundrum Bay that is threatening to destroy the sandy beach which is Newcastle's prime attraction.