Wicked Problem Essay: Urban Street Planning in London

Wicked planning problems are all around us. They often appear in the news and are often surrounded by controversy. Wicked problems help illustrate the politically charged nature of urban planning. This assignment requires you to conduct an analysis of the news to identify an example of a wicked planning problem.

Identify a real-life example that illustrates the political, and often controversial, nature of the planning process. The example you find can be local or in another city; can relate to any of the functional areas of planning (transportation, housing, economic development, environmental/natural resource planning, education, public health, urban design); and may be project specific or focus on larger comprehensive planning activities. Pick a case study for which you can find adequate details and information about the planning problem being addressed. You must find a minimum of three sources of information about your case study. All sources must be properly cited and referenced. Write an essay that clearly addresses the following for the wicked problem you identified:

  • Explain the background for the planning problem being addressed
  • Discuss why the problem is a wicked one
  • Why is the problem itself difficult to define?
  • Why are the causes of the problem uncertain?
  • Why is there no obvious solution?
  • How is the problem linked to other problems?
  • Identify the relevant stakeholders involved (various professionals and experts, users, community groups, local government, etc.)
  • How do conflicting values contribute to the wicked nature of the problem?

Your written essay should be roughly 3-4 single spaced pages in length and should be written in essay format (i.e. include an introductory and concluding paragraph, and content paragraphs consisting of well-structured sentences). The 3-4 page guideline is just that a guideline; you will not be graded on the length of the paper but rather the quality that you address the subject.

All essays should reflect your own individual work. Direct quotes should be cited properly using a consistent citation style throughout. Be sure to include a list of the sources used to complete the assignment.

Your essay should be thoroughly proofread for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Essays with excessive proofreading errors will be graded accordingly.


Additional resources about wicked problems:

Rittel, H. W., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy sciences, 4(2), 155-169. http://www.sympoetic.net/Managing_Complexity/complexity_files/1973%20Rittel%20and%20Webber%20Wicked%20Problems.pdf (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.


Weber, E. P., & Khademian, A. M. (2008). Wicked problems, knowledge challenges, and collaborative capacity builders in network settings. Public Administration Review68(2), 334-349.

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