Changing Urban Environments

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Structure of a city - Inner City


Inner City:

  • found around the CBD
  • mix of poorer quality housing (like high-rise tower blocks) and older industrial buildings
  • quite run-down and deprived but there is also newer housing and industry where derelict land has been cleared and redeveloped
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Structure of a city - the suburbs (inner suburbs)


Suburbs (inner suburbs):

  • the housing areas found towards the edge of the city
  • land here is cheaper and is still close enough to commute into the centre for work quite easily
  • in the UK and USA, middle-class families live here due to the nicer environment, less crime and less pollution than the inner city
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Structure of a city - the rural-urban fringe


Rural-urban fringe (outer suburbs):

  • located at right of the edge of city
  • both urban (e.g. factories) and rural (e.g. farming) land uses
  • there is fewer, larger houses
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Issues living in urban areas of the world

Issue - the demand for housing:

  • population in the UK has increased by 7% since 1971 and is predicted to continue so the population will be 52.5 million in England by 2021
  • the number of households has increased by 30% because more people are living alone (some 7 million of the population)
  • new single-person households account for 70% of the demand for housing
  • the demand for housing has caused the average UK house price to rise more than 50% to £279,000 between 2005 and 2015


  • Building new homes - the UK's government's target is to build 240,000 new houses every year by 2016 so house prices do not spiral out of control due to shortages
  • Urban renewal schemes - 60% of these new homes will be built throughout existing towns and cities on brownfield sites
  • Relocation incentives - encourage people living in large council houses (who don't need a big house or don't need to live in the city) to move out of urban areas e.g scheme run by a London Council encourages older people who live in big houses in the city to move out 
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Issues living in urban areas of the world

Issue - run down CBDs:

  • the land is very expensive so shops must make a high turnover e.g Marks and Spencers
  • the struggle to attract businesses due to competition from out-of-town shopping centres and business parks, which have cheaper rent and are easier to drive to with ample parking


  • Pedestrianising areas - to make the safer and nicer for shoppers
  • Improving access - with better transport links and better car parking
  • Redevelopment - converting derelict warehouses and docks into smart new shops, restaurants, and museums 
  • Improving public areas - e.g parks and squares, to make them more attractive
  • Initial government investment - e.g London docklands development, encourages businesses to return, attracting more customers, which attracts more businesses and so on
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Issues living in urban areas of the world

Issue - traffic:

  • there are more and more cars on the road today (approximately 32 million) because of a 436,000 boost in 2013
  • the means there is more air pollution (carbon dioxide is emitted from car exhausts), which damages health, and also damages buildings (gasses emitted from car exhausts react with the atmosphere causing acid rain, which corrodes buildings away made from limestone)
  • more than 1.2 million people die in a road accident each year
  • more traffic jams and congestion as more people move to the edge of town and cities and have to commute to work


  • Improving public transport - e.g. park and ride schemes, encourages people to use public transport instead of cars, which reduces traffic congestion, air pollution, traffic jams, and accidents
  • Increasing car parking charges in city centres - discourages car use, so people are more likely to use public transport instead
  • Bus priority lanes - speed up bus services so people are more likely to use them
  • Pedestrianisation of central areas - removes traffic from the main shopping streets, which reduces the number of accidents and pollution levels, also makes these areas more attractive to shoppers
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What are the causes of urbanisation?

Rural-urban migration causes urbanisation in richer and poorer countries.

Rural-urban migration is the movement of people from the countryside to the cities.

Reasons for rural-urban migration in richer countries:

  • Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions - machinery replace farm labour in rural areas, and jobs created in new factories in urban areas, so people move from farms to towns for work
  • Redevelopment - people left run-down inner city areas and moved to the countryside, but now people are encouraged to move back by the redevelopment of these areas

Reasons for rural-urban migration in poorer countries:

  • Shortage of services in rural areas - less education, access to water and power etc. in rural areas and people from areas believe that the standard of living is better in cities, so migrate to city from rural areas
  • Job opportunities - industry is attracted to cities because there's a larger workforce and better infrastructure than in rural areas and so there are more jobs in urban areas, therefore, rural-urban migration occurs
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Factors that cause urbanisation

  • Rural-urban migration and childbirth - normally young people move to cities, they have children in cities, increasing the proportion of the population living in urban areas.
  • Natural increase - better healthcare in urban areas means falling death rates, this combined with high birth rates means more people are born than dying, which increases the proportion of people in urban areas 
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Definition of urbanisation

increase in the proportion of people living in cities, resulting in their growth.

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Structure of a city - CBD


Central Business District:

  • usually found right in the centre of a city
  • is the commercial centre of the city with shops and offices
  • is where the transport routes meet
  • has very high land values as there is a lot of competition for space
  • buildings are tall and building density is very high
  • very few people live in the CBD
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Issues living in urban areas of the world

Issue - Ethnic Segregation:

  • People prefer to live close to other with the same background and religion, and who speak the same language
  • People live near to services that are important to their culture, e.g. places of worship, meaning that people of the same ethnic background tend to live in the same area
  • People from the same ethnic background are often restricted in where they can live in the same way, e.g. because of lack of money, so they all end up living in the same place.


  • Equal access to services - making sure there are suitable services for the different cultures, e.g. in some cultures it is unacceptable to be seen by a doctor of the opposite sex, so alternatives should be provided.
  • Equal access to information about different services  - printing leaflets in a variety of languages and providing interpreters at places like hospitals and police stations
  • Improving communication between all parts of the community - involving the leaders of different ethnic communities when making decisions
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What is a squatter settlement?

  • settlements that are built illegally in and around the city, by people who cannot afford proper housing
  • are a problem in many growing cities in poorer countries
  • most of the inhabitants have moved to the city from the countryside (rural-urban migrants)
  • the settlements are badly built and overcrowded, they often don't have basic services like electricity or water.
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Issues with living in a squatter settlement

  • No infrastructure - houses not provided with basic infrastructure such as sanitation, piped water, electricity, and road access, services are poor, public transport is limited, and connections to electrical supply can be limited and sometimes dangerous
  • Poor quality of buildings - houses are made of any materials available nearby such as corragated iron, pieces of board that are haphazardly assembled to provide a basic shelter, which could easily collapse
  • Poor sanitation - there are no toilets, rubbish is not collected, there are no sewers so waste is dumped in a ditch in the middle of paths running between the houses, poor sanitation leads to the spread of diseases, such as AIDs, which can cause parents to die leaving many children as orphans
  • Overcrowding - a high population density means people only have a small amount of space (1m² of space per person), meaning more houses built so there are narrow paths and houses are built so close together sunlight is blocked from entering, it also means that fire will spread quickly, and the area does not have enough resources to support the increasing population, jobs are also in short supply, and the newest and poorest arrivals may be forced to live on the worst quality of land
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Solutions living in a squatter settlement


  • Self-help schemes -  the government and local people work together to improve life in the settlement, the government supplies building materials and local people use them to build their own homes, this helps to provide better housing and the money saved on labour can be used to provide basic services like electricity and sewers
  • Site and service schemes - people pay a small amount of rent for a site, and they can borrow money to buy building materials to build or improve a house on their plot, the rent money is then used to provide basic services for the area
  • Local authority schemes - these are funded by the local government and are about improving the temporary accommodation built by residents

Evaluate which method is the best and explain why

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Squatter settlement case study - Kibera 1

Where is Kibera? 

In the capital city of Nairobi in Kenya

3 facts:

  • Some 60% of Nairobi's inhabitants live in squatter settlements
  • Between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people live in the squatter settlement in an area of 225ha (hectares)
  • People only have 1m² of floor space each

Problems with living in Kibera:

  • Over 100,000 children are believed to be orphans as a high incidence of HIV/AIDs
  • Rubbish litters the area as it is not collected
  • Private operators run hosepipes into the area and charge double the going rate for water
  • Crime is ride and vigilant groups offer security at a price, and police are reluctant to enter
  • The paths between the houses are irregular, narrow, and often have a ditch running down the middle that has sewage in it
  • The area smells of the charcoal used to provide fuel, and of human waste
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Squatter settlement case study - Kibera 2


  • Practical Action, a British charity, has been responsible for developing low-cost roofing tiles made from sand and clay and adding lime and natural fibre to soil to create blocks used for building that are cheaper than concrete, these allow self-help schemes to progress
  • The United Nation's Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) has provided affordable electricity to some parts of 300 Kenyan shillings per shack
  • There are two main water pipes - one provided by the council and the other by the World Bank, at the cost of 3 Kenyan shillings per 20 litres
  • Medical facilities are provided by charities
  • Gap-year students are encouraged to go to Kibera to oversee the spending and to help coordinate efforts
  • A 15-years project that began in 2003, planned to re-house thousands of residents of Kibera, which was a joint venture between the Kenyan government and UN-Habitat, in its first year 770 families were rehoused in new blocks of flats with running water, toilets, showers, and electricity, residents have been involved in plans and funding of 650 million Kenyan shillings had been set aside for the first year
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Advantages of using brownfield sites

Advantages of building on brownfield sites:

  • Areas on the edge of the city can be used to provide leisure opportunities
  • Reduces commuting and traffic congestion
  • Prevents urban sprawl
  • Leads to contaminated or unsightly sites being cleaned up
  • Countryside is not built on
  • Reduces possible waste/derelict land in cities
  • Makes use of sites that have already been developed
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Issues living in urban areas of the world

Issue: the inner city


  • the demand for housing is high in the inner city
  • the government tried to fix this demand by building cheap, high-rise blocks of flats in the 1960s and early 1970s as a 'quick fix', but these flat now need renovating 


  • Urban Development Corporations (UDC's) - large-scale projects where the major changes occurred with the help of both public and private investment
  • City Challenge - regeneration, where local authorities, private companies, and the local community worked together from the start
  • Sustainable communities - allow people to live in an area where there is housing of an appropriate standard to offer a responsible quality of life, with access to a job, education, and health care.
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Providing adequate open spaces

  • Official green belts or areas where local authorities choose to restrict buildings around cities offers open space for recreation purposes
  • Areas in cities that have designated areas of open space in the form of parks, playing fields and individual gardens
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Reducing and safely disposing of waste

  • More recycling -  means fewer resources are used, e.g. metal cans can be melted down and used to make more cans, less waste is produced, which reduces the amount that goes to landfill, landfills are unsustainable as it wastes resources that could be recycled and eventually there'll be nowhere left to bury the waste
  • Safely disposing of toxic waste helps to prevent air and water pollution
  • Pressure on consumers to reduce the amount of packaging used for products, and making the packaging reusable such as coffee pots
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Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation

The effects rapid urbanisation and industrialisation has on the environment:

  • Waste disposal problems - people in cities create a lot of waste, this can damage people's health and the environment, especially if it's toxic and not disposed of properly
  • More air pollution - this comes from burning fuel, vehicle exhaust fumes, and factories
  • More water pollution - water carries pollutants from cities into rivers and streams, e.g sewage and toxic chemicals from industry can get into rivers which cause serious health problems, wildlife can also be harmed
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Problems with the disposal of electronic waste

Poorer countries struggle to dispose of the large amount of waste that's created by rapid urbanisation because of:

  • Money - poorer countries can't afford to dispose of waste safely, e.g. toxic waste has to be treated and this can be expensive, there are often more urgent problems to spend limited funds on such as healthcare
  • Infrastructure - poorer countries don't have the infrastructure needed, e.g. poor roads in squatter settlements mean waste disposal lorries can't get in to collect rubbish
  • Scale - the problem is huge, a large city will generate thousands of tonnes of waste every day


  • Global volume of e-waste is expected to grow by 33% in the next 4 years
  • Approximately 7kg or e-waste per person is generated each year
  • 13% of the 53 million tonnes of e-waste generated worldwide in 2009 was recycled
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Sustainability: development that preserves the future resources, standards of living and the needs of future generations.

Main features of a sustainable city:

  • Conserving the historic and natural environment
  • Reducing and safely disposing of waste
  • Providing adequate open spaces
  • Involving local people
  • Providing an efficient public transport system
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Conserving the historic and natural environment


  • Historic buildings can be restored or designate as a Heritage Site


  • Natural environment can be conserved by using green belts around the city to prevent urban sprawl and ensures that the surrounding countryside is protected from development, this provides recreational open space for urban residents (there are policies which prevent building on green spaces
  • Limiting available sites on the edge of the city means that alternative locations for development must be offered, so building on brownfield sites is encouraged which protects the environment and encouraged sustainability


Green belt: land on the edge of the built-up area, where restrictions are placed on building to prevent the outward expansion of towns and cities and to protect the natural environment

Urban sprawl: the uncontrolled outward expansion of the built-up area of a town of city

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Involving local people

  • Involving local people makes the local people feel  in control of their own destiny, they are more likely to respond positively and care for the buildings and environment in which they live in
  • Planners survey opinions before putting forward plans and consult after they have been produced
  • Residents form associations to give them a stronger collective voice
  • Have meetings in local halls where people are invited to see what is planned gives people the opportunity to give their views so that they feel included, not excluded
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Providing an efficient public transport system

  • Good public transport systems mean fewer cars on the road, so pollution is reduced
  • Bus, train, and tram systems that use less fuel and give out less pollution can also be used
  • More frequent buses to encourage people to use public transport rather than their own cars, to reduce traffic and pollution
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Sustainable urban living case study - Curitiba 1

Where is Curitiba?
Curitiba is the capital city of the Brazilian state of Parana

  • Has a population of 1.8 million people
  • Has a budget of $600 million to spend every year

Ways in which Curitiba is working towards sustainability:

  • Reducing car use
  • Plenty of open spaces and conserved natural environments
  • Good recycling schemes

Good recycling schemes:

  • 70% of rubbish is recycled, paper recycling saves the equivalent of 1200 trees per day
  • Residents in poorer areas where the streets are too narrow for a weekly rubbish collection are given food and bus tickets for bringing their recycling into local collection centres
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Sustainable urban living case study - Curitiba 2

Reducing car use:

  • Good bus system used by more than 1.4 million passengers per day
  • 'Express' bus system - they have special pre-pay boarding stations that reduce boarding times, and bus-only lanes on the roads that speed up journeys
  • The same cheap fare is paid for all journeys, which benefits poorer residents who tend to live on the outskirts of the city
  • Over 200km of bike paths in the city
  • The bus system and bike paths are so popular that car use if 25% lower than the national average and Curitiba has one of the lowest levels of air pollution in Brazil

Plenty of open spaces and conserved natural environments:

  • Green space increased from 0.5m² per person in 1970 to 52m² per person in 1990
  • It has over 1000 parks and natural areas; many of these were created in areas prone to flooding so that the land is useful but no serious would be done if it flooded
  • Residents have planted 1.5 million trees along the city's streets
  • Builders in Curitiba are given tax breaks if their building projects include green space
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Water pollution


  • Water pollution kills fish and other aquatic animals, which disrupt food chains
  • Harmful chemicals can build up in the food chain and poison humans who eat fish from the polluted water
  • Contamination of water supplies with sewage can spread diseases like typhoid


  • Building sewage treatment plants
  • Passing laws forcing factories to remove pollutants from their waste water

Managing air and water pollution costs a lot of money and requires lots of different resources. This makes it harder for poorer countries to manage pollution.

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Air pollution


  • Air pollution can lead to acid rain which damages buildings and vegetation
  • It can cause health problems like headaches and bronchitis
  • Some pollutants destroy the ozone which protects us from the sun's harmful rays


  • Setting air quality standards for industries
  • Constantly monitoring levels of pollutants to check they're safe
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very useful revision cards, for my gcse geography exam. MT

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