WITH only five days left until the general election, the battle for a seat in the New Forest is now on.

On December 12, thousands of people will head to the poll to elect a new Parliament in the third national vote in the last five years.

This year, Conservatives are going all-out to ensure that their comfortable majority in the New Forest does not change.

Both New Forest East and New Forest West have seen a Tory majority for the last 22 years.

Since the boundary changes resulting in the former constituencies of New Forest and Romsey and Waterside were abolished in 1997, Dr Julian Lewis has represented New Forest East.

Dr Lewis is now striving to be re-elected once again, only two years after retaining his seat in the last general election.

In 2017, Dr Lewis received more than 60 per cent of votes from New Forest East constituents giving him 32,162 votes - 21,995 more than his closed rival Labour candidate Julie Renyard.

Issues in the district include unaffordable house prices, and the increasingly difficult struggle faced by young people who want to remain in the area where they grew up.

Other concerns include the £800m scheme to to redevelop the former Fawley power station creating 1,500 homes and 2,000 jobs.

Proposals include a primary school and a health centre, plus leisure facilities.

The scheme also includes a multi-storey dry stack - described as an automated parking facility for up to 600 boats.

Artist's impressions released by Fawley Waterside Ltd show a Venice-style development with ornate buildings lining both sides of a canal running through the centre of the waterfront area.

Fawley Waterside says the £800m scheme will create "one of the most beautiful small towns in England".

Concerns around the development include extra traffic likely to be caused by the scheme putting strain on the A326.

A passenger ferry service between Fawley and Southampton is also under discussion, along with the possible re-opening of the Totton to Fawley railway line.

Other issues include the large number of animals killed or injured on Forest roads every year.

Campaigners want the 40mph speed limit on all unfenced roads reduced to 30mph to cut the carnage.

In October, the Forest's Animal Accidents Reduction Group launched their new campaign, 'Add3Minutes'.

Brexit and climate change are among the other issues being raised on doorsteps across the district.

Dr Lewis, born in Swansea, went to Dynevor Grammar School before attending Balliol College, Oxford.

He is campaigning this election focusing mainly on the Brexit deal and leaving the EU.

He is pledging to help PM Boris Johnson to get Brexit done in order to "move the country forward".

In his time as New Forest East MP, he voted against the fox hunting ban.

He has also attended "dozens" of meetings in the local area to support on-going campaigns backing community hospitals and demanding better mental health provision in Hampshire.

Dr Lewis rivals this year include Labour candidate Julie Hope, who received 10,167 votes in the 2017 general election.

Julie Hope, who has called Totton and the Waterside home for most of her life, has said that looking at the environment has featured heavily this election.

She pledges to "think deeply" about the type of country and world we want to live in, and leave to the future generations.

Julie added that she thinks the election is a chance for people to "look at ourselves and the environment".

She believes that Brexit has become a "distraction from the real issues" that are facing people today and that the current government has "encouraged" people, communities and towns away from "the united front we should be following".

She added: "Labour can win in the New Forest.

"With our policies every single person and household, other than the very rich, will be better off, both financially but also in quality of life."

In 2017, the Liberal Democrat candidate, David Harrison, received 7,786 votes.

This year, Bob Johnson will be against the four opposition Parties.

Mr Johnston, who formally taught biology at Oxford Brookes University, has raised concerns about Fracking.

Last time he was asked to state his position on the subject he opposed however as his current position as a councillor involved in planning matters, he cannot do so.

He said that he can oppose an individual application on environmental grounds without offending the code.

Another topic he was keen to address was the Totton to Fawley railway line, claiming that it would give sustainable access to Southampton and the national rail network for those who live in the area, and those who will be moving to the area for the development at the former power station site.

He added that his strategy in this election will be to "build on the success" of the recent local and European elections earlier this year.

Mr Johnston also said that if elected, he would look for a property in the constituency.

Standing for the Green Party this election is Nicola Jolly, who has taken over from 2017’s representative Henry Mellor.

Nicola is pushing for New Forest East constituents to vote Green this election, stating that "every Green vote matters" as it will result in more media coverage, better funding and "political pressure on the government".

Nicola, who lives in the New Forest, is pledging to put the environment at the centre of policy.

She said: "It is no secret who is going to win New Forest East this time.

"You have a free vote.

"A chance to vote for a party which represents your vision."

Professor Andrew Knight will be standing for the Animal Welfare Party in the New Forest East constituency.

Andrew, who was previously a cat and dog veterinarian, is striving to help protect and conserve animals across the globe, including tackling the threat of traffic to New Forest wildlife and the ponies.

He said: "We are the clear leaders on animal welfare issues, and we support a wide range of other socially and environmentally progressive policies too."

With only a few days left before the general election registrations to vote are now closed.

On December 12 there will be 44 polling stations in the New Forest open from 7am to 10pm.

Residents who have registered to vote are expected to receive their polling card soon.

In 2017, 51,366 people turned out to vote in New Forest East.

Experts say turnout is difficult to predict as there are several factors that impact people’s desire to vote.

In 2016, 72.2 per cent of the British public turned out to vote in the Brexit referendum.

Some may think the turnout will be high again next week given that this has been described as the Brexit election.

But others suggested that the numbers could drop this year as people will have to cast their ballot when the nights come earlier and the weather is colder.