STAR OPINON: Grasp the nettle on the tough decisions

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Two pieces of unconnected news in The Star today are likely to result in very similar feelings of frustration for those affected.

Yet another delay has been announced on making a decision on hugely-controversial plans to build a new motorway service station on ancient woodland near Sheffield, while the people of Rotherham are still waiting for clarification from the Government on what - if anything - it plans to do about the numerous extremist marches that are continuing to take place in the wake of the child abuse scandal.

In both cases, it is time for decision-makers to grasp the nettle.

The application for the £46m Extra service station at Smithy Wood near Chapeltown was submitted two years ago and councillors should have made a decision by October 2014.

But after thousands of objections and revised plans, the decision will now not be made until the end of June at the very earliest.

It is not easy. Developers say hundreds of jobs could be created and 60,000 trees would be planted to outweigh those lost, while campaigners argue it is ‘incomprehensible’ to allow a service station to be built on centuries-old habitat.

Whatever choice is made will not get wholesale approval but the time for delay is surely over.

Both sides have had two years to put their cases and people deserve to know what is going to happen.

An even more complicated situation is also playing out in Rotherham, where the English Defence League held yet another protest on Saturday.

Despite the small turnout by both the EDL and counter-demonstrators from Unite Against Fascism, 400 police officers were on the streets after serious trouble following September’s rally by Britain First.

Millions has been spent policing 15 protests in Rotherham since October 2012 - largely involving demonstrators who claim to be concerned about child sexual exploitation issues but who may be more interested in using such crimes as a way of stoking up racial tension.

Rotherham Council wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May in May 2015 asking for special police powers to outlaw such demonstrations - and are still waiting for a satisfactory answer.

There is no doubt this is a hugely difficult issue – balancing people’s fundamental right to protest with the impact such repeated marches are having in making the town centre essentially a ‘no-go zone’ for ordinary people on the days of demonstrations.

But as with Smithy Wood, difficult decisions should not be ducked.

The time has come for answers.