MS028 | Settlement Patterns

A settlement pattern means the shape of a settlement. The shape of early settlements was usually influenced by the surrounding landcape:

  • a dispersed settlement pattern is where the buildings are spread out and is often found in upland areas;
  • a nucleated settlement pattern is where a lot of buildings are grouped together and is often found in lowland areas;
  • a linear settlement pattern is where the buildings are built in lines and is often found on steep hillsides.



Originally, people built their homes together for: companionship, safety and to share services. Over a long period of time, many villages grow as more people want to live in them. This creates a distinct shape or pattern of land use:


  • The Central Business District (CBD) – This is in the centre and contains the: shops, offices and public buildings (like museums and hospitals) because it is the most accessible point.
  • The Inner-City – In some settlements this area contains abandoned factories and old terraced houses, whilst in others it has been redeveloped by converting empty warehouses into flats and waste land into parks.
  • The Suburbs – These are the residential areas where people who commute into the CBD for work live on housing estates.

Recently, large out-of-town shopping centres have been built on the edges of settlements because: the land is cheap to buy, there is plenty of space for car parks and it is near to their customers living in the suburbs.