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Urban environments


Urban environments


What you need to know:


Urbanisation – Videos BBC (click on the image below)



 Urban environments Revision 


The increasing percentage of people living in towns and cities is called urbanisation. The rate of urbanisation today has been such that half of the worlds population is now living in urban areas.

The present-day rates of urbanisation have changed from a time when the high income countries (HICs) dominated to today where city growth is considerably higher in the low income countries (LICs). The reasons for these high growth rates in LICs are due to:
Most economic development concentrated in the big cities
Push and pull factors are leading to high rates of rural-urban migration
Cities are experiencing high ages of natural increase (the difference between birth and death rates).


Urbanisation occurs naturally when people and businesses want to reduce time and expense in travelling and transporting goods while improving opportunities for jobs, education, housing, and transportation. Living in cities gives individuals and families the chance to take advantage of the varied and local opportunities.
People move into cities for better jobs.. In rural areas, often on small family farms, it is difficult to improve one’s standard of living beyond basic sustenance. Farm living is dependent on unpredictable environmental conditions, and in times of drought, flood or pestilence, survival is difficult.

So urbanisation is the increase in the proportion of people who live in urban environments. Over time more and more people have moved into the larger communities, thus making them bigger still.

Use the word document below and your textbook.

IGCSE  Edexcel Urban environments (introduction)

Urbanisation processes


Urban regeneration
Urban re-imaging
Urbanisation of suburbs

Urbanisation: Process of change that converts rural areas, regions and countries into urban ones. It is also the growth of towns and cities which leads to an increasing percentage of a country’s population living in urban settlements.

Agglomeration: This is how urban settlements first appear. It is the concentration of people and economic activities at favourable locations.

2. Suburbanisation: The outward spread of the urban area, often at lower densities compared with the older parts of a town or city. As towns grow, they expand outwards through suburbanisation. Adds to built-up area, but building densities lower than in older parts of town.

3. Commuting: People start to move out of the town/city to live in smaller more rural areas. These are often called dormitory settlements because many new residents only sleep there. They commute to work and still make use of urban service like shops and hospitals. Commuting definition: Travel some distance between one’s home and place of work on a regular basis.

4. Urban regeneration: involves re-using areas in old parts of the city where businesses and people have moved out into the suburbs or beyond.

5. Counter-urbanisation: the movement of people and businesses (employment) from major cities to smaller towns/cities and rural areas.

6. Urban re-imaging: changing the image and look of an area to attract people. (Urban regeneration and re-imaging)

7. Urbanisation of suburbs: suburbs are generally areas of low-density development, so instead of using rural areas governments want to use suburban areas–suburban areas become more dense, raised to an urban level–. Empty spaces are being developed and large detached houses are replaced by flats. The suburbs are no longer just residential areas anymore, shops and other services start to locate there too.

Mega cities


Metacities or hypercities are massive sprawling conurbations of more than 10 million people. Tokyo is the largest urban conglomeration in the world.
• In 1950 the world had only four cities with population greater than 5 million
• by 1985 already 28
• in 2000 39 cities
• In 2015 there will probably be almost 60 mega cities worldwide.
Two thirds of today’s megacities are in developing countries, most of them in East and South Asia. Today megacities are home to less than 10% of the global urban population. In 2015 there will be about 604.4 million people (ca. 17%) living in megacities (Kraas 2003, UN-HABITAT 2001).


Megacities have a large number of specific problems with occasionally striking structural similarities. They often have more in common with each other than with their own hinterlands:
• high population concentration and density
• largely uncontrolled spatial expansion
• high traffic levels, in some cases severe lacks of infrastructure
• high concentrations of industrial production
• signs of ecological strain and overload
• unregulated and disparate land and property markets and insufficient housing provision
• in some cases extreme socio-economic disparities
high level of dynamism in all processes (Kraas 2003)

There are four reasons for the growth of mega cities, namely:
Economic development
Population growth
Economies of scale
Multiplier effect

The problem with mega cities can be seen at the national level where these huge cities grow and prosper at the expense of towns, cities and regions elsewhere in the country. Mega-cities become powerful cores that create large peripheries around them.


Click on the link below – word document

IGCSE  Edexcel – Urban environments – megacities (word document)

The problems associated with rapid urbanisation:

Urban growth or Sprawl: A growth in the size of the urban area. This normally happens because of building in the rural-urban fringe, although it may also include things like land reclamation.
Rapid urbanisation and urban growth can cause many problems in urban areas including:

Congestion (an increase in the amount of traffic leading to traffic jams)
Destruction of greenfield sites
Pollutions (air, water, noise, visual)
Electricity blackouts
Water shortages
Growth of informal settlements


Gentrification is a process of renovation and revival of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of influx of more affluent residents, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses.

The segregation of urban land uses

Most cities, including your home town or city, have a land use pattern that stretches from the centre to the rural to urban fringe. We need to identify the patterns.

Burgess Model (concentric circle model)


The Burgess Model was developed in 1925 by the sociologist Ernest Burgess. He based it solely on the US city of Chicago. He noticed a distinctive commercial area in the centre of the city and called this the CBD. He then noticed an area of factories which he called the transition zone followed by steadily improving housing as you moved away from the transition zone.

The model is very simplistic, only based on one city and now largely out of date as periods of deindustrialisation and regeneration have changed many urban land-uses.

Hoyt Model (sector model)


The Hoyt Model was developed in 1939 by the economist Homer Hoyt. Hoyt based his model on 142 North American cities. Like Burgess he noticed a largely commercial area in the centre of the urban areas (the CBD). However, unlike Burgess’ circles he noticed the development of wedges. He noticed that industry often developed along major transport routes e.g. railways, canals and roads.

He then noticed that the poorer residential areas were focused near the industry while richer residential areas tended to grow further away from polluting industrial areas.

Again there are some limitations because Hoyt only looked at North American cities in a period before mass car ownership. Also like with Burgess’ model many changes have since taken place in MEDC cities.


Main Land Uses

Commercial: This is businesses, mainly offices. The main commercial area will normally be in the CBD.


Residential: This is housing and is where people live. Apartment type housing is found near the CBD and bigger houses towards the suburbs.

Industrial: This is factories, traditionally found in the transition zone, they are now more likely to be found in the rural-urban fringe.


Agricultural: This farming and is obviously normally found in rural areas although some cities may have some small urban farms.

Recreational: Any activity that people do in their spare time. This land use may include golf courses, football pitches, museums, sports centres and tennis courts.

Retail: This is shops. Traditionally the main shopping areas have been in the CBD but increasingly shops have been relocating to shopping malls in the rural-urban fringe.


Educational: Any building connected to education e.g. libraries, schools and universities. This land use may be found anywhere in urban areas.

Urbanisation in Low Income Countries (LICs)

Informal Settlements: Houses and settlements that have been built by the residents themselves out of any temporary building materials they can find. Informal settlements can also be called squatter settlements, slum settlements or shanty towns.

Marginal Land: Land that no ones wants to build on. Marginal land might be on steep slopes, next to main roads or on floodplains Newly arrived migrants are often forced to build temporary settlements on marginal land.

Urban growth/sprawl: The increase in size of urban areas. Urban areas normally grow out into the rural-urban fringe or onto marginal land.

Rapid urbanisation in Low Income Countries (LICs) is causing many problems. Many new migrants to cities in LICs cannot afford housing. They are forced to build temporary accommodation in spontaneous settlements. These settlements are commonly known as ‘shanty towns’. They are also called favelas (Brazil) or bustees (India).
Three main features of a shanty town are:
1. Houses are made from scrap materials such as wood and metal sheeting
2. Often housing does not have services such as sanitation, water or electricity.
3. The settlements are usually very overcrowded.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is an example of a city with a large area of shanty settlements or favelas.

Shanty town (aka. squatter settlement) is a slum settlement (sometimes illegal or unauthorised) of impoverished people who live in improvised dwellings made of scrap materials such as packing boxes, wooden planks, corrugated iron and plastic sheeting.

Why are they formed? Where are they found? 
When people from poor rural areas migrate to LIC cities they find that there are no houses for them, so they have to build homes on land available to them. The land is usually in areas of no economic value, on the edge of town, along main roads or on steep slopes. They often build on land they do not own, or on land that they do not have permission to build on.

Many areas on which shanty towns are built are unsafe:

  • prone to flooding
  • prone to landslides (steep slopes–this is why it is unoccupied, people cannot build tall buildings on steep slopes..)
  • heavily polluted location
Often, they lack basic services such as electricity, water and sewerage. (Sewerage: the provision of drainage by sewers)Sometimes raw sewage runs across the streets and contaminates the area, leading to a wide variety of diseases. It is an unhealthy place to live in. However, for many people living in a shanty town is better than the life they had in rural areas. They prefer to live there and work in the informal economy, as it offers greater opportunities.

Stages of a shanty town (informal settlement)

Case Study – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Rocinha is the largest favela in Brazil. It is located in the southern zone of the city. It is built on a steep hillside overlooking the city, just one kilometre from the beach. It is home to between 60,000 to 150,000 people (though this could be more).
Rio de Janeiro is a city located on Brazil’s south-east coast. It is one of Brazil’s largest settlements with a population of approximately 11.7 million people. The population of Rio de Janeiro has grown for a number of reasons. Natural Increase is one reason for its growth (this is when the birth rate is higher than the death rate). The population has also grown as the result of urbanisation. The has been caused by rural to urban migration. Millions of people have migrated from Brazil’s rural areas to Rio de Janeiro. 65% of urban growth is a result of migration. This is caused by a variety of push and pull factors.

The rapid growth of Rio de Janeiro’s population has led to a severe shortage of housing. Millions of people have been forced to construct their own homes from scrap materials such as wood, corrugated iron and metals. These areas of temporary accommodation are known as favelas in Brazil. The conditions associated with favelas are very poor. Often families have to share one tap, there is no sewerage provision, disease is common and many people are unemployed.
Favelas are located on the edge of most major Brazilian cities. They are located here for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is the only available land to build on within the city limits. Secondly, industry is located on the edge of the cities. Many people need jobs therefore they locate close to factories. Some of these settlements may be 40 or 50 km from the city centre (on the edge of the city), along main roads and up very steep hillsides.


Three ways in which to improve the informal settlements:

Self-help schemes – Rocinha, Bairro Project
The authorities in Rio de Janeiro have taken a number of steps to reduce problems in favelas. They have set up self-help schemes. This is when the local authority provide local residents with the materials needs to construct permanent accommodation. This includes breeze blocks and cement. The local residents provide the labour. The money saved can be spent on providing basic amenities such as electricity and water.

Today, almost all the houses in Rocinha are made from concrete and brick. Some buildings are three and four stories tall and almost all houses have basic sanitation, plumbing, and electricity. Compared to simple shanty towns or slums, Rocinha has a better developed infrastructure and hundreds of businesses such as banks, drug stores, bus lines, cable television, including locally based channel TV ROC, and, at one time, even a McDonalds franchise, though it has since closed. These factors help classify Rocinha as a Favela Bairro, or Favela Neighbourhood.

Site and service schemes: The local government provides land and builds new roads with electricity and water connections. Local residents are then given or sold plots of land that they can build their houses on. Some site and service schemes will also have the houses built which again given away or sold cheaply to low income families.

Rural investment: invest in the rural areas and this should hopefully slow down the pace of urbanisation into the cities.

Favela improvement – Tourism

Not all people living in Rio de Janeiro are poor. Many wealthy people live close to the CBD.


Changes at the edges of HIC cities

The areas where the green fields and open spaces of the countryside meet the built up parts of the towns and cities is known as the rural-urban fringe (urban fringe). Here countryside is being lost by the outward growth of towns and cities, particularly the suburbs. The greenfield sites of open land around the edge of cities are in great demand for housing, industry, shopping, recreation etc.

The Rural-Urban fringe is the name given to the land at the edge of an urban area, where there is often a huge mixture of land uses.

One reason for this outward movement (push factors)is due to dissatisfaction with the city, for example
Housing is old, congested and expensive
Environmental pollution – noise, atmospheric
There is a shortage of land for shops, offices and factories.

The pull factors to the rural-urban fringe are:
Land is cheaper therefore houses are bigger
Factories are more spacious and have parking for workers
Closeness to motorways and main roads – access ability
These areas are favoured due to personal mobility – cars.

Because so many people want to work and live in the rural-urban fringe, different groups frequently come into conflict over how to use it. Groups that may come into conflict include:

House developers
House buyers
Hikers and cyclists
Road builders
Business or science parks

Often science parks, business parks and industrial estates locate in the rural-urban fringe as the land is cheaper, there is room for expansion and they are closer to transport links to allow export and import of goods.

Motorways and by-passes, such as the M25 and the Newbury by-pass have been built on the rural-urban fringe, much to the disgust of environmental groups who feel that the area should be kept as green as possible.

Recreational land-uses such as golf courses and leisure parks have been established in the rural-urban fringe.

Housing has also encroached into the rural-urban fringe, and small villages have grown as more people move out of the cities and commute to work.

Out-of-town shopping centres also find that the space available, good transport connections and cheap land encourage them to establish in the rural-urban fringe.

Farming still occurs in the rural-urban fringe, although the farmers often come under great pressure to sell their land for development. A farmer will make far more money from a sale if there is already planning permission for building to occur on the land.


Greenfield sites versus brownfield sites

People aren’t happy that the countryside around towns and cities of HICs is being developed and lost. Environmentalists believe that new developments should be done on brownfield sites opposed to greenfield sites.

Brownfield site: land that has been previously used, abandoned, and now awaits a new use. Greenfield site: land that has not been used for urban development

Brownfield site


reduces loss of countryside and land that could have agricultural/recreational use
revives old and disused urban areas
services already installed e.g. water, electricity, gas and sewerage
nearer to main areas of employment=reduces commuting

more expensive as old buildings must be cleared and land decontaminated (clear pollution)
often surrounded by rundown areas so is not appealing as residential location, especially to wealthy people
higher levels of pollution=less healthy
may not have good access to modern roads

Greenfield site

cheaper and rates of house building faster (no need to clear old buildings/pollution)
layout not hampered by previous development, can be made efficient + pleasant easily
healthier environment

valuable farm/recreational space lost
attractive scenery lost
loss of wildlife and their habitats
noise + light pollution due to development
encourages suburban sprawl

Deprivation and poverty in HIC cities


In HIC cities the term deprivation is widely used in connection with poverty. Poverty is used when a persons well-being is below a level which is generally thought of as an acceptable minimum. These people live in areas of poor housing which is commonly termed slums.

A multiple deprivation index (MDI) is used to determine levels of deprivation – it uses several quality of life indicators:
Access to housing and services

The living environment

Deprivation seems to occur in two areas of the city- the more central parts of the city and towards the city’s edge.
More central parts – substandard housing and / or high rise blocks
Towards the city’s edge – estates of social housing.

The symptoms of deprivation are:
Poor housing
Unattractive living environment
Services (schools, medical centres, parks, shops etc) are of a poor quality.


The people who live in these areas of poor housing show characteristics that are part of the symptoms of deprivation:
High levels of unemployment
Single parent families
Unskilled manual work
Minimal education
Crime levels are high
Anti-social behaviour


To understand deprivation one must be aware of the cycle of poverty. This is based on the idea that poverty and deprivation are passed on from one generation to the next.

Urban regeneration and re-imaging

London Docklands-Urban regeneration

(Urban regeneration and urban re-imaging result in rebranding which helps sell an urban area to a new target market)

Urban regeneration: the investment of capital in the revival of old, urban areas by either improving what is there or clearing it away and rebuilding. Urban re-imaging: changing the image of an urban area and the way people view it.

Urban regeneration: Over time, old parts of town would suffer decline. The factories would move elsewhere, resulting in jobs lost. Quality of life and housing is poor, so the place needs to be regenerated, as in ‘brought back to life’. Regeneration includes:
transforming the economy of the area by encouraging new businesses to replace those that have closed/moved elsewhere. Employers – people who might provide employment in the area by using/buying shops or offices need to be brought in to the scheme as they can provide new work which hopefully improves the economy.
Upgrade the quality of the built environment by:
a) finding new uses for old and often empty buildings,
b) clearing them away to make way for new ones. (The London Docklands is a good case study)
Urban re-imaging: To change the reputation of a city or an area by:
Focusing on a new identity/function–Docklands had more services such as pubs and cinemas so it became the new ‘cool’ place to be.
Changing the quality and appearance of the built-up area–Docklands was completely redeveloped and regenerated, new industries would locate there so there were more jobs and it was a good brownfield site development, re-using space and saving land in the process (reclaiming land and putting it to another use)
London Docklands – regeneration.


During 19th Century-port of London busiest in the world. Surrounding the docks were:
many industries using imported goods
high-density, poor quality housing (typical old inner-city area)
In the 1950s-ships become bigger and were unable to reach London’s docks. By 1970s, the area became derelict, with few jobs, few services and poor living conditions.
Many people forced to leave area to look for work and a better quality of life.


Factors which pushed people out of the area were:
Traditional jobs in docks were lost (manual, unskilled, unreliable and poorly paid) most housing was substandard-lacking basic amenities (services e.g. water, sewerage, electricity..) and located in poor-quality environment.


In 1981, the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was set up to try to improve:social, environmental and economic conditions of the area.

LDDC had three main tasks to accomplish:

1. Improve social conditions by: creating new housing, creating new recreational facilities and improving shopping facilities.
2. Improve economic conditions by: creating new jobs, improving transport system (to and within area)
3. Improve environmental conditions by: reclaiming derelict land, cleaning up the docks, planting trees and creating areas of open space (people like parks and peaceful green surroundings)

What improvements were made after 1981?

Social Improvements


22,000 new homes created (many are former warehouses converted to luxury flats)
10,000 refurbished former terraced houses (Refurbish: to renovate and redecorate)
-In 1981 population= 40,000
-In 2000 population= 85,000

several huge new shopping malls
post-16 college and campus for new University of East London
leisure facilities: water-sports marina, national indoor sports centre

Economic Improvements


The number of jobs increased, In 1981= 27,000 In 2000= 90,000
Many new firms and financial institutions e.g. Stock Exchange, ITV Studios, newspaper offices all opened there. Many high-rise office blocks, esp. at Canary Wharf
Docklands Light Railway links area with central London
Jubilee Line Underground extension
City Airport
Many new roads, including M11 link


Environmental Improvements
750 hectares of derelict land reclaimed
200,000 trees planted
130 hectares of open space created

However, not everyone was happy with the changes, because not everybody benefited:

Negative effects on the local people:

new jobs went to people living outside the area, as local people did not have the technical skills (a lot of new jobs created were in finance/media industries–using high tech equipment–local people not skilled enough to do these types of jobs)
a lot of new housing far too expensive for locals
more money was spent on providing infrastructure (expensive offices and houses) and a clean environment for office workers; than on services (e.g. hospitals and care for elderly, health + educational facilities for local people)
noise and air pollution (dust) from the building
prices in area generally increased (e.g. in shops, bars etc.) the newcomers were wealthy, causing local shop and recreational prices to rise
newcomers did not mix with local people this led to tension causing a breakdown of East Ender’s community

Key words:

Brownfield site: Land that has been used, abandoned and now awaits some new use. Commonly found in urban areas, particularly in the inner city.

Ethnic group: A group of people sharing the same characteristics of race, nationality, language or religion.

Greenfield site: A plot of land in a rural area that has not yet been subject to any development.

Inner city: That part of the built-up area and close to the CBD, often characterised by old housing, poor services and brownfield sites.

Mega-city: A city with a population exceeding 10 million.

Shanty town: An area of makeshift and unsanitary housing, often occupied by squatters (no legal right to occupy).

Socio-economic group: A group of people distinguished by employment, income and social characteristics such as education and family status.

Social deprivation: The degree to which an individual or an area is deprived of services, decent housing, adequate income and local employment.

Urbanisation: The process of becoming more urban, mainly through more and more people living in towns and cities.

Urban regeneration: The revival of old parts of the built-up area by either installing modern facilities in old buildings (known as renewal) or opting for redevelopment.



Urban and settlement

Investigating land-use and function


  • To investigate land use patterns and change over time
  • To establish the boundaries of the CBD, to investigate retail and commerce within the CBD (see retailing and commerce investigations section, below) and to identify any issues concerning the management of the CBD
  • To undertake a study of the function of a town or of different parts of a town/city, or to compare the function of different towns and cities
  • To investigate spatial differences in function within an urban area, for example, changes in functional dominance with distance from the CBD, or different functions of the retail area of the CBD
  • To study changes in function over time (temporal studies)
  • To investigate industrial land-use, for example reasons for location and impact (linked to environmental quality or transport studies)

Urban land-use transects


  • Base maps of study locations
  • Appropriate land use classification key
  • Pencils and clipboard
  • Notepad or record sheets
  • Digital camera


  1. Decide on your sampling technique, especially if you are investigating a large urban area
  2. Using a large scale map of the study area, select a transect line radiating from the CBD outwards
  3. Develop a land-use classification key for use during the data collection. This should be based on the type of land use (residential, industrial, etc.) and then sub-divided according to the age, style or function of individual buildings. Your key should allow you to easily classify each individual building you encounter on your transect. You may decide to use a GOAD map of the area as your base map
  4. Walk your transect route and gradually build up information on your base map by adding colours or codes from the key which you have developed
  5. The map can be redrawn following your fieldwork to ensure that all of the land uses are clearly shown. You can use a GIS package to create land use maps on the computer. Alternatively, you can complete your maps by hand

Considerations and possible limitations

  • Mapping large areas can be time consuming and labour-intensive, so group work is a good idea
  • A suitable sampling strategy should be devised to reduce bias in your land use survey
  • Obtaining site maps, especially historical ones, can be difficult. There is a cost involved in obtaining GOAD maps of your area
  • Care and thought should go into developing an appropriate land use classification key to make data collection easier and less subjective. However, a degree of subjectivity is inevitable when determining land use classifications, and errors can sometimes be made in judging the age and style of the buildings

Retailing and commerce investigations


  • To examine the distribution of shops and services within a CBD and to use Nearest Neighbour analyses to mathematically describe the distribution as clustered, random or regular
  • To relate the distribution of different retail outlets to functions in different parts of a town, city or CBD
  • To investigate the diversity of shops and services in different urban areas and to compare changes over time
  • To investigate the environmental quality of urban areas
  • To examine retail ‘footfall’ by calculating the proportion of people walking past a shop that actually enter the premises. Information gathered could be used to compare different shop types, shops with different frontages (for example; width, colour or display), chain and independent shops or shops with and without sales or promotions. Data collected could also be compared to questionnaire findings on shoppers’ age, preferences and perceptions
  • To use mental maps or perception surveys to examine and compare people’s perceptions of the CBD
  • To investigate the competition between two neighbouring towns in terms of the diversity of retail services available and the perceptions of consumers


  • Historical and current maps (ideally GOAD maps) of the study areas
  • Key to classifications of the function of shops and services
  • Coloured pencils

Services in the CBD

  1. Devise a suitable key for the different functions of the shops and services within the CBD, for example food, shoe, clothes, chain, independent, charity, etc.
  2. Walk around the CBD and on a GOAD map of the area, carefully code or colour each unit according to your key

Nearest neighbour analysis

  1. Shops or services of a particular function – clothes shops, for example, are identified and marked onto a base (GOAD) map of the CBD area
  2. Each is numbered
  3. The linear distance (in cm) from each unit to its nearest neighbour is measured
  4. Data is recorded in a table
  5. Once all distances have been measured, the average is calculated
  6. The total study area is measured in cm2
  7. The figures are inputted into the formula to generate a number between zero and 2.15
  8. Zero = clustered, one = random, 2.15 = regular distribution

Diversity index

  1. The shops and services in the CBD are classified using a key, according to their function, for example food shops, shoe shops etc.
  2. These should be marked clearly onto a map, perhaps using codes or colour coding
  3. Tallies are made of the number of shops of each separate function, and the total number of shops is recorded
  4. A diversity index could be calculated as follows:
  • DI = ∑ (X / N) 2

Where: DI = Diversity index, X = Number of shops for that category, for example food shops N = Total number of shops (for that time period if looking at historical changes)

  1. You would calculate X/N for each shop type or function, and then add up all of the squared values to give an overall value
  2. Values of DI are from zero to 0.99. The higher the value the greater the diversity
  3. If looking at changes over time, historical GOAD maps can be used in the same way, and the DI calculated for each time period and compared

Pedestrian flow (footfall) studies

  1. Decide on the criteria for comparison, for example:
  • To compare a chain clothes shop, for example Topshop, with an independent clothes shop
  • To compare shops with large frontage to shops with small frontage
  • To compare shops with promotions, for example a sale, and those without
  • To examine and compare the potential impact of shop appearance, for example; colour, window display, cleanliness
  1. The number of people entering a particular shop is calculated as a proportion of those passing by, and tallies are recorded for each shop being investigated
  2. Data should ideally be tied in with questionnaires

Perception and mental map studies

  1. Mark some main land-marks, shops and services onto a base map of the CBD, and number them
  2. Ask people to attempt to correctly identify which number on the map corresponds to each shop, service and land-mark on the list you present them with
  3. Additional information could be obtained from each person, for example their age category, gender and ethnicity, plus information about their shopping habits and how often they visit the area
  4. Tally the results in a table to show the percentage of correct answers given for each location
  5. The results could be linked to information on peak land values, for example, is there a greater awareness of places closer to the PLVI (peak land value intersection)? Or accessibility – do more people correctly identify the locations which are more accessible compared to those which are less accessible? Or desirability – link to information on the environmental quality of different areas
  6. People could also be provided with a base map of only a few key landmarks, for example a main road or a park, and asked to draw their own ‘mental maps’, showing whichever locations you ask them to mark or the areas that they like to visit within the urban area

Considerations and possible limitations

  • There is huge scope within this fieldwork theme for interesting and relevant investigations – your imagination is the main limit! However, it is important to ensure that you have clear aims before you begin to avoid the investigation becoming vague and unfocused
  • This type of study may be time-consuming, and require more than one person to carry out data collection. For example, footfall surveys should ideally take place at the same time at each location for direct comparison, and two people are really needed at each site to count in each direction
  • Pedestrianised areas of the CBD can be very busy and make surveys more problematic.
  • Obtaining historical GOAD maps will incur a cost
  • Perception studies should be approached carefully in order to obtain valid results. Sampling technique should be decided upon before the study is undertaken so as to reduce bias
  • Some questions are sensitive and should be approached as such, for example the age, ethnicity and social background of respondents

Urban changes and issues investigations


  • To investigate industrial change over time
  • To investigate changing retail provision and shopper behaviours
  • To investigate a proposed new retail development, the case for and against the development and potential positive and negative impacts
  • To investigate issues such as crime and personal safety within an urban area using perception studies and mental mapping techniques as well as questionnaires and environmental quality surveys
  • To investigate the effectiveness of management strategies in the CBD, for example the designation of pedestrianised areas
  • To conduct route enquiries along transects to examine, account for and evaluate the changes which have taken place along this route over time
  • To investigate the impact of regeneration and redevelopment
  • To investigate chewing gum as an urban issue
  • To investigate planned housing developments and their potential impacts


  • Historical maps of the study areas
  • Current base maps (preferably GOAD maps) of the areas
  • Keys to different land-uses / functions
  • Coloured pencils
  • Digital camera
  • Questionnaires or interview questions
  • Other survey sheets, for example environmental quality, perception surveys, mental maps

Investigating urban changes

  1. Using historical maps and photographs, identify changes in land use, shops and services over time
  2. Mark current land-uses, shops and services should be marked onto a base (GOAD) map using a suitable key or classification system
  3. Carry out questionnaires to obtain opinions on changes, and investigate people’s perceptions about the area through mental mapping techniques
  4. Complete environmental quality surveys to investigate the urban quality of the area as it is today
  5. Arrange interviews with representatives from companies in retail parks or industrial areas. Ask about the reasons for company’s location and investigate the sphere of influence (for shoppers and work force) as well as the impacts of the park on the local area

Changing shopping provision and habits

  1. Investigate changes in the diversity of shops and services over time using historical maps and by applying a diversity index (see section on retailing and commerce)
  2. Compare out of town shopping centres with the CBD of local towns, the sphere of influence, pedestrian flows and ‘user’ perceptions may all differ, along with factors such as accessibility, desirability, parking and other facilities at each location
  3. Use footfall surveys to determine which shop types are most attractive to shoppers. Perhaps this differs between different parts of the town, or is related to age, gender or social background
  4. Use questionnaires to evaluate people’s opinions and feelings about the shopping environment, for example, how it has changed or is changing and the extent to which this influences their shopping behaviour

Investigating issues using mental maps

  1. Provide respondents with a base map of the study area, with a few key features marked on. Depending on the aims of your investigation, ask them to shade the areas:
    • Where they feel safest
    • Where they perceive there to be greatest risk to their personal safety
    • Which they consider to be the most attractive or desirable (in terms of living / shopping / working environment)
    • Which they consider to be cleaner, more polluted or run down
  2. Ask respondents to rank particular locations in the area according to certain criteria, for example safety, desirability, attractiveness, cleanliness
  3. Examine any links between the age, gender, ethnicity and social background of the respondents and their perceptions
  4. Obtain secondary data on planned developments and, where possible, conduct interviews with developers or company representatives
  5. Conduct questionnaires amongst the public, with shop owners and representatives from companies to obtain people’s opinions and perceptions about these developments
  6. Use traffic and pedestrian surveys to highlight the potential impact of a proposed development

Considerations and possible limitations

  • Definite and clear aims should be established or the investigation becomes vague and unfocused. Once you’ve decided on your aims, you can then identify the exact data collection requirements to meet those aims
  • Time and labour are both considerations, do not bite off more than you can chew
  • Obtaining historical GOAD maps will incur a cost. Secondary data regarding historic industrial activity may not be publicly available
  • Perception studies should be approached carefully in order to obtain valid results. A sampling technique should be decided upon before the investigation is undertaken to reduce the chance of bias
  • Some questions are sensitive and should be approached as such, for example age category, ethnicity and social background

Arranging interviews with representatives from companies or retailers can be tricky too, especially as you may want to interview someone who is quite high up in the company rather than just the Saturday job person

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