Patterns of settlement

Settlements take on a range of shapes when they form. Dispersed, linear and nucleated are the most common.

Patterns of settlement

Patterns of settlement

A dispersed pattern is where isolated buildings are spread out across an area, usually separated by a few hundred metres with no central focus. It is typically an area containing buildings rather than a single settlement. The population is sparsely distributed in a dispersed settlement. There are usually no services in a dispersed settlement.




Dispersed settlements usually occur in:

  • remote or mountainous regions
  • areas where the land is predominantly used for agriculture
  • areas with limited job opportunities
  • locations with few, if any, job opportunities

A linear settlement pattern occurs in a line or arc shape. They typically follow a road, valley or water body. This allows the settlement to utilise transport routes. They can also occur along valley floors where the sides are very steep.




A nucleated settlement occurs in a circular shape with buildings mainly concentrated around a common centre such as a road junction, park or service area. Most large cities are nucleated indicating they are well planned. Nucleation occurs due to:

  • flat relief which is easy to build on
  • the site has a bridging point
  • the site is a good defensive position
  • a good water supply
  • no restrictions to development in any direction
  • good job opportunities
  • effective public services
  • good transport links




Geography Infographics Set 1
Internet Geography Plus
Holderness Coast CPD 25th October




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