The function of a settlement describes all the main activities that occurin it.
These can be grouped into a number of headings, such as residential,recreational, retail, government, entertainment andindustrial.
Some settlements have one predominant function. This was particularly the case when settlements were first established. Some towns performed important defensive functions, others were ports and others were important route centres for further exploration of a country (such as the gateway cities of Canada e.g. Calgary and Edmonton).
Most settlements now are multi-functional,which means that they perform a range of different functions, however some may be more important than others to a particular settlement. For instance a tourist town will perform all sorts of functions, but its main ones are concentrated towards the tourists.
Many settlements around the world have found that their functions have had to change over time. One such example is that of small farming villages finding that their residents are moving out to find jobs in the cities.
This leaves the village empty, apart from the older population. The village then may become a retirement centre, or commuters may move in and it could become a commuter village. Two good examples of the changing functions of a settlement can be seen in Benidorm (Spain) and the South Wales mining towns.
In the 1950's Benidorm was a small, attractive fishing village bordered by fine sandy beaches. Few people visited it despite the attractive scenery andwarm summers. However over the next 20 years travellers discovered the lovely little village and began to flock there.
By 1970 Benidorm had been transformed from a small fishing village to a sprawling mass of hotels based around the needs of the tourists. The town had changed functions completely. By 1990 the resort had begun to stagnate, and the government was forced to step in with a scheme aimed at rejuvenating the resort and its facilities.
Example: South Wales Mining Towns
The villages of South Wales began their existence as small farming communities. During the Industrial Revolution, large deposits of coal were found in the valleys and the mining industry took off. Settlements grew due to this new industry. However by the 1930's the amount of coal being extracted was beginning to decline and by the 1990's all but one of the mines had been closed down.
The towns and villages that had relied on the coalmines began to decline. Some however have once again had their functions changed. Small villages have become centres for commuters to locate to, whilst the larger settlements such as Pontypridd and Swansea have benefited from being at the Western end of the M4 Corridor.
This growth corridor extends right the way to London, and so large companies such as Sony, Bosch and the Royal Mint have been encouraged to relocate to South Wales. The towns are becoming important industrial and business areas.