Site and settlement : land and settlement structures in rural Northumberland
There is a growing awareness of concerns expressed by people who live in the countryside as arguments for and against new housing developments on farmland receive widespread and regular publicity. The debate follows several different perspectives from participant and nonparticipant parties with a focus of contention on erosion of traditional values. A persuasive argument in this debate is found in traditionalists' opposition to physical and social changes to existing hamlets, villages and small towns, on evidence of the effects of C20 housing accretions, and recognition of the threat to the nature of earlier settlements posed by urban standards of development. This raises fundamental questions about interpretations of rurality in the context of settlement growth, and raises a challenge for developers to retain much admired rural characteristics in a climate of new housing need. The study addressest hese issuesb y examining literature from a wide range of disciplines to develop a concept for meaningful analysis of settlements, in which site and social processes are manifest in building forms. It informs the debate by pinpointing formative elements in settlement development from investigation of linkages between building configurations and particular properties of location and place in a chronology of events and processes. Hamlets,v illagesa nd small towns are in many sensesb eautifulp laces,c ombiningv ariety and interaction of different qualities of forms and spaces in single buildings and groups of buildings. Part of this complexity is a combination of physical and socio-cultural elements which are reflectedi n particularu sesa nd arrangementosf buildings and spaces. The study proposest hat settlementsa re social constructsin which landscapeis a unique elementa nd central to the formation of their distinctive configurations. The study is composed of two parts of empirically based research of settlements in Northumberland. Quantitative and qualitative methodologies are used to explore the prevalence of relationships between building configurations and topographical and geological divisions, and to investigate the phenomena of social-cultural relationships with site. The analysis identifies key elements of landscape which are negotiated by groups of buildings to give distinctive qualities to configurations. The research helps understand site/settlement relationships, by acknowledging the processes and differences which occur over different locations and uses at different times. The research develops new methodologies in tracing site/settlement relationships, and promotes an analytic approach, as an instrument in development processes, to contextualise settlement formations by providing a rich insight into some of their essential characteristics. It concludes that site offers opportunities for and sets limits on development and provides a cohesion between physical and socio-cultural processes of development in a climate of continuous change.