1.2 Settlement

syllabus_link_buttonDescribe the patterns of rural settlements – dispersed, linear, nucleated.


Settlements in their early stages tended to form in distinct patterns.

Dispersed: rural settlements with isolated dwellings/farmhouses, typical in agricultural settings.

Linear: settlements that established along transport routes such as railways, roads and canals/rivers grew in a line alongside.

Nucleated: settlements that established around trade route junctions grew outwards along the roads and gradually filled in creating a more circular pattern.


syllabus_link_buttonExplain how physical factors (relief, soil, water supply) and other factors such as accessibility, agricultural land-use, influence the sites and patterns of rural settlements.

Many factors influenced the site of settlements and these would vary in importance based on the purpose of the settlement.

  • Flat land: makes building, establishing transport routes and farming crops much easier.
  • Fertile soils: important for settlements to be able to sustain themselves
  • Freshwater supply: essential for drinking but also necessary for cooking and washing.  Successful settlements were often build close to rivers where water was available but without standing stagnant water (marshland).
  • Building materials: wood or stone were often required to be close by as a material to build with.
  • Defensive: settlements would look for high ground with uninterrupted views to enable sighting of enemies approaching.


syllabus_link_buttonDescribe and explain the factors which may influence the size, growth and functions of rural and urban settlements.

The growth of cities has predominantly been determined by economic success.  Cities that established effective trade routes and supplied or traded goods in demand tended to experience rapid growth.  Workers and new industries would be attracted to these cities which in turn contributed to further success.

During the industrial revolution in the UK the northern cities of Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle rapidly expanded as they established textile, steel and shipbuilding industries.  Their location close to raw materials and sources of abundant power (coalfields) provided ideal conditions for factories.

London had great trade links to Europe due to the River Thames, is built on flat land and surrounded by fertile plains.

For cities to successfully grow they needed sustainable freshwater supplies. Limited access to freshwater would ultimately limit the growth of urban areas.


Describe and suggest reasons for the hierarchy of settlements and services.


Settlement Hierarchies


A distinct hierarchy is evident when looking at the number and size of settlements in a country.  As settlements increase in size they decrease in number.

High order/comparison goods: these are expensive, often luxury goods that people do not purchase frequently.  Examples would be high end fashion shops, luxury jewellers and car showrooms.

High order products will generally only be found in the larger settlements as they are expensive, often specialist and demanded by a small percentage of the population. They need to have a large potential market and need to be close to high earners.

Low order/convenience goods: these are products that people buy regularly are unlikely to invest time and money on shopping around comparing prices. Groceries, bread, milk, newspapers are examples.

Convenience goods will be found in all sized settlements, as they are demanded by virtually everyone on a regular basis.  They will tend not to occupy the areas of high land values in the larger settlements though.


syllabus_link_buttonDescribe and explain the land-use zones of towns and cities to include the Central Business District (CBD), residential areas, industrial areas, the provision of open spaces and transport routes.  Differences in the patterns of urban structures in cities of LEDCs and MEDCs should be identified.

Cities often have complex structures and differing patterns of land use.  Models have been made to try and show generalised patterns of typical land use zoning.

The Concentric Ring ModelBurgess concentric ring model

This is an early model of urban areas based on Chicago in the 1920s.

CBD (Central Business District).  This usually the oldest part of the urban area (where it originally began) and is the most accessible since transport networks (road, rail, bus) lead into it.  Traditionally it was the most desired location for shops and banks since it had the most people passing by.  High land values and a lack of available space in this area leads to it having the tallest buildings.

Light manufacturing.  The industrial revolution led to the emergence of manufacturing around the original urban centre.  These inner city areas now often have light manufacturing as the original industries have declined or moved overseas.

Low class residential.  To support the factories built in the industrial revolution housing needed to be provided for the workers.  This was often low quality, quick to build and within walking distance of the industries.

Housing quality increased with distance from the city centre as higher income residents desired more spacious houses with gardens and could afford to commute into the city to work.


The model is criticised for being overly simplistic.  It assumes resources and land are in equal in all directions which is almost never the case.


The Hoyt Model

Hoyt Sector Model

Hoyt attempted to improve upon the concentric ring model and came up with this land use model.

He suggested that transport routes were much more significant.  They would attract industry to locate along them as they were the main route for raw materials and finished products.

The low class housing would then locate alongside these zones of industry creating wedges.

Low class housing was also likely to be downwind of industry where the pollution was carried to.  Better housing would avoid these areas and look for the cleaner air.


LEDC Land Use Characteristics

Slum settlements, Rwanda
Slum settlements, Rwanda

LEDC cities tend to display slightly different land use zoning.  Many of them are currently going through rapid urban growth and are struggling to cope with the increasing population.  Slums/favelas are often found on the edges of these cities and in some cases in sections of the inner city.  They are often established on illegal land or land that has been unused due to being risky (landslides, floods, contamination).

Wealthier residents often live in gated communities that are guarded.  This creates very segregated communities that have little interaction with other parts of the city.


syllabus_link_buttonDescribe problems associated with the growth of urban areas such as congestion in the CBD, housing shortages, traffic congestion, squatter settlements. Suggested solutions to overcome these problems should be illustrated by reference to selected examples.

Urban Problems

Urban growth inevitably results in pressure on infrastructure and services.

Increasing car ownership couple with roads not designed for the modern volumes of traffic leads to congestion.  This in turn leads to increased air pollution and lost time for commuters and businesses.

LEDCs typically have lower car ownership but the vehicles (including public buses) are older and less efficient.

Urban areas have recognised the need to reduce the impacts of traffic congestion.

Bus lanes and cycle lanes have been established in many urban areas.  Some cities such as San Jose in Costa Rica have a system of plate restrictions for cars.  Cars with specified number plates are banned from entering the central urban area on certain days.

London, UK

London Cycle Hire Scheme


London has introduced the congestion charge requiring vehicles travelling into the inner city area to pay a fee. Benefits of the scheme have been reduced traffic entering the city and a reduction in the air pollution.  Less congestion for drivers bringing economic benefits. The money raised has been used to improve the public transport systems, which in turn attracts more people to use the public services.

Bike hire has also been established whereby bikes can be hired in one place and returned in many other locations. This has reduced the number of people using taxis, buses and trains.

Rapid urban population growth puts pressure on the housing stocks.  The supply of new housing often does not keep pace with the increasing demand.  This results in rising prices and a lack of affordable housing for many.  The result of this is the emergence of slums often on illegal land.

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Rocinha is one of the early favelas in Rio.  Characterised by illegal, poorly built dwellings on steep land with poor sanitation systems and high crime rates it personified urban poverty.  In recent years Rio has legalised the dwellings, invested in municipal services and restored order through a significant police presence.

Waste disposal has become an increasing concern.  Disposing of waste often involves landfill sites which pollute groundwater reserves and release significant methane emissions.   Recycling is increasing but is expensive and requires residents to take responsibility for sorting out their waste.

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Jardim Gramacho was the largest landfill site in the world, taking most of Rios waste.  Teams of informal workers sort through the waste looking for recyclable material that they can collect and sell for money.  The work is dangerous and pays little money bit provides an essential recycling service that vastly reduces the waste that actually remains in the landfill.


syllabus_link_buttonDescribe the effects of urbanisation on the environment – pollution (air, water, visual and noise), the results of urban sprawl on surrounding areas, the growth of out-of-town urban activities – shopping areas, sports facilities, etc.


Impact of Urbanisation on the Environment

Urbanisation places significant pressure on the environment.

Air pollution: from transport has been previously mentioned and industry adds to this.  Damage to health is one effect (The UN  has estimated that 7 million people died from air pollution in 2012).  Acid rain is another impact as nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides return to the land as sulphuric and nitric acid.  Acid rain damages trees as roots take up the acids, soils become leached of minerals and nutrients and lakes become acidified leading to the decline of plant and fish life.

 Freshwater: cities place huge demands on freshwater supplies. Phoenix in Arizona, USA is depleting the groundwater reserves below by 3 meters a year.   Water is now diverted 500km from the Colorado river to supply it with water.

Water pollution:  Rainwater washes chemicals and waste into rivers.  In many developing countries untreated sewage is often discharged into rivers or oceans leading to increasing illness from water borne diseases.


Counter urbanisation is the process of people moving out of the urban areas to surrounding villages.  Car ownership and rising incomes have enabled more people to commute into cities for work.  The result has been urban sprawl and loss of countryside.

Decentralisation of Industry & Retailing

Retail parks, decentralisation
Retail parks, decentralisation

As increasing proportions of people live in more suburban or rural areas shops and offices have followed.  Land is cheaper and more space is available outside the city.

Better road connections and close proximity to residential areas provide ideal locations for shopping malls, retail outlets and new office developments.

Urban centres are facing declining importance as prime locations for retailing.  High land values push firms away, the lack of parking and subsequent high cost of available parking discourages shoppers.  Online retailing is currently rapidly gaining market share as it can locate in the cheapest and most connected location.

Environmental Impacts

New York urban sprawl
New York urban sprawl

Urban sprawl impacts on the environment in many ways. The most obvious is the loss of green spaces and the subsequent decline of wildlife.  As the countryside is removed to make way for urban developments the hydrological cycle is affected.  Less interception by vegetation increases the water reaching the ground.  The loss of permeable surfaces reduces the infiltration rates and increases the surface water often resulting in the occurrence of floods.

Changes in the local climate occur as tall buildings obstruct and channel wind in different patterns.

Urban areas heat the atmosphere above them through heat generated by buildings and transport but also through higher rates of absorption of sunlight and release of heat (dark surfaces).

Dense populations and high levels of transport create significant noise pollution and at night light pollution.

 Test Yourself

Past Paper Style Questions

Grab a pen and start improving your exam technique

1) Describe the benefits to shops and customers of locating in out of town sites (shopping malls and retail parks). [5 marks]

2) Describe the problems faced by people using the CBD of a large urban area. [5 marks]

3) Describe the efforts that have been made to solve urban problems in a named example/area. [7 marks]