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As early settlements grew in size, each one tended to develop a specific function or Functions. The function of a town relates to its economic and social development and refers to its main activities. There are problems in defining and determining a town’s main function and often, due to a lack of data such as employment and/or income Figures, subjective decisions have to be made. As settlements are very diverse, it helps to try to group together those with a similar function.
Over the years, numerous attempts have been made to classify settlements based on function, but these tended to refer to places in industrialized countries and are no longer applicable to post-industrial societies. Further problems arose when the growth of some settlements was based upon an activity which no longer exists, or where the original function has changed over time. Functions may also differ between continents – i. e. there is also a difference over space.
Finally it should be realized that today, and especially in the more developed countries, towns and cities are multifunctional – even if one or two functions tend to be predominant. Differences between urban and rural settlement There is a divergence of opinion as to how and where to draw the borders between each type of settlement. Several methods have been suggested in trying to define the difference between a village, or rural settlement, and a town, or urban settlement.
Population Size: There is a wide discrepancy of views over the minimum size of population required to enable a settlement to be termed a town, e.g. in Denmark it is considered to be 250 people, in Ireland 500, in France 2000, in the USA 2500, in Spain 10 000 and in Japan 30 000. In India, where many villages are larger than British towns, a figure of less than 25 per cent engaged in agriculture is taken to be the dividing point. ~ Economic: Rural settlements have traditionally been defined as places where most of the workforce are farmers or are engaged in other primary activities. In contrast, most of the workforce in urban areas are employed in secondary and service industries.
However, many rural areas have now become commuter/dormitory settlements for people working in adjacent urban areas or, even more recently, a location for smaller, footloose industries, such as high-tech industries. ~ Services: The provision of services, such as schools, hospitals, shops, public transport and banks, is usually limited, at times absent, in rural areas. ~ Land Use: In rural areas, settlements are widely spaced with open land between Adjacent villages. Within each village there may be individual farms as well as residential areas and possibly small-scale industry.
In urban areas, settlements are often packed closely together and within towns there is a greater mixture of land use with residential, industrial, services and open-space provision. ~ Social: Rural settlements, especially those in more remote areas, tend to have more inhabitants in the over 65 age group, whereas the highest proportion in urban areas lies within the economically active age group or those under secondary school age. It has becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate between villages and towns, especially where urban areas have spread out wards into the rural fringe.
It is, therefore, more realistic to talk about a transition zone from `strongly rural’ to `strongly urban’. Cloke devised an index of rurality based upon 16 variables taken largely from census data for England and Wales. These variables included people aged over 65, pro portion employed in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, population density, population mobility (those moving home in the previous 5 years); proportion commuting; and distance from a large town.