THE COUNTDOWN to the election in Eastleigh has ticked down as all seats at the borough council are up for grabs.

Parties have thrown down the gauntlet ahead of the election on May 3.

Cllr Keith House, who has been council leader since 1994, is hoping his Lib Dems party will remain in charge.

This year the seats are hotly contested after five Lib Dems councillors left the party over concerns about plans to build 5,200 homes near ancient woodland between Bishopstoke and Fair Oak.

Housing, green spaces and finding the balance between providing homes and protecting countryside have dominated the Eastleigh political landscape for several years and are expected to be the main factors that will influence the vote this year.

The Lib Dems said the council has agreed a Local Plan with the much-needed homes in the right places to deliver new infrastructure and tackle congestion while protecting the countryside.

The group pledged to keep doing what it has been doing in the past years, including keeping council tax down.

But the Libs Dems will have to face fierce opposition from the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Green Party, UKIP and a number of Independent candidates.

While they all have different plans for the borough, they all pledged to focus on protecting the environment.

Protecting the countryside and ease traffic congestion is the main pledge made by Independent candidates Gin Tidridge, Louise Anne Parker Jones and Ray Dean, who have been actively involved in the Action Against Destructive Development (ADD) campaign against the proposed 5,200 homes near ancient woodland.

The other three Independent candidates Steve Sollitt, Chris Thomas and David Betts said they would work with other elected Independents to ensure the council policy process is clear and transparent and there is a good working relationship with other levels of local government.

The Tories have also pledged to work with all agencies and the county council to ensure that much needed infrastructure is delivered.

Among their pledges there is also more transparency in council businesses and a brownfield first approach.

This year Eastleigh Labour Party, which currently has no seats at the council, is hoping to win a handful.

The party said to be committed to eliminate poverty and see a greater diversity in the elected representatives so that all voices can be heard.

Meanwhile, for UKIP the key issue for this year's election is Brexit along with housing.

The party said the issues are linked as they believe that the national housing policy is being driven by uncontrolled EU immigration in the South East of England.

Candidates from the Green Party will stand in six seats and said they want a fair system where we all get a voice.

They said they will also be focusing on providing a clean, efficient transport solution that works for all.

As new boundaries have been drawn for the borough, the council will be cut to 39 members.