Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!


Settlement characteristics

A settlement is a place where people live. They come in different sizes, types and locations. Watch this video to find out more.


In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Key points

  • A settlement is a place where people live. They can be permanent or temporary.
  • Wet point sites; such as villages in the South Downs have a good water supply.
  • Dry point sites, like Ely in Cambridgeshire, are away from the risk of flooding.
  • Defensive sites, like Corfe Castle, have high ground so enemies can be seen from a distance.
  • Gap towns, like Lincoln, lie in a gap between two areas of higher ground.
  • Access to resources is also important, like Aberfan in the Welsh Valleys, which is near coal reserves.
  • As technology advances, the importance of these factors diminishes. A modern settlement does not have to be close to a river, because water is now piped to our homes and we use roads instead of rivers for transport.
  • A settlement hierarchy is a list of settlements ordered by their size.
  • As settlements grow, the number of services they provide will also increase. Small settlements only provide low order services like a post office, doctors and newsagents. Large cities will provide low and high order services like leisure centres, chain stores and hospitals.

All Geography videos

Urban environments index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.