CANDIDATES for Christchurch faced a wide range of public questions including NHS, planning, and upskirting.

Seven candidates for the Christchurch constituency took to the stage at the Godfirst Church in Christchurch less than a week before residents will take to the polls to vote. 

Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope is one of the few conservatives expected to keep their seat but this didn't stop the six other candidates and the public from piling the pressure on him.

During his opening speech, Sir Christopher said: "Although I've had the privilege to represent Christchurch since 1997, this is the first election in which I've felt enormous pressure. 

"I would urge people to look forward to the future and what we can achieve. This is essentially a two-horse race, both nationally and locally."

Sir Christopher felt it was wise to refer to the local betting odds which earned the first laughs of the evening from the audience in light of the recent betting controversy. 

(Image: Daily Echo)

The first question of the evening focussed on the NHS and encouraging more people to work in the area with the question stating Christchurch is 'the last place they would choose'.

Liberal Democrat candidate, Councillor Michael Cox, said: "We've recently had the opportunity to sell some land at the university hospital in Bournemouth to Bournemouth as we own the land at the back of the hospital. 

"The hospital wanted to buy it and they wanted to build houses for key workers.

"We've arranged to sell to them at a fair market value which has been bitterly opposed by local conservatives."

Independent candidate, Councillor Simon McCormack chose a different tactic and stated he wanted to 'incentivise young people in the profession' while tackling local house prices.

In the same vein of struggling public services, another question was asked about the 'teacher exodus' in the area. 

In light of the recent closure of Parkfield School in Hurn, Cllr Cox stated the £35 million spent by conservatives was a 'complete waste of money' and expressed the wish for it to become a SEND school. 

(Image: Daily Echo)

Green candidate, Susan Graham, said: "I'm a retired teacher and I was working twelve hour day under difficult conditions with discipline and bureaucracy. 

"Our schools are crumbling, teachers need a pay rise and I remember one headteacher committing suicide because of Ofsted.

"I don't think we need Ofsted."

Immigration also appeared as a question and, while the Reform UK candidate, Robin Adamson, had decided not to be involved in the debate, UKIP candidate Steve Unwin suggested immigrants should be 'culled' before he stuttered and changed his words. 

Mr Unwin said: "The net migration to the whole UK, not just Dorset, is a massive issue. The UK had 685,000 net migration last year and we're not building a quarter of a million houses in the same time period."

In a question on immigrants working as carers, Labour candidate Joanna Howard said: "I've been looked after by people of all nationalities in hospital as have my children. 

"They saved their lives and we have got to stop talking about them as if they don't belong here."

(Image: Daily Echo)

The most controversial moment of the evening came when Sir Christopher was asked on his decision to oppose a private members bill to criminalise upskirting in 2018.

While he argued he made the decision as it is wrong for it to 'go through on the nod without proper debate', Ms Graham clapped back by asking 'what kind of debate do we need to stop upskirting?'

Environmental questions also appeared with the Animal Welfare Party Sasha Jolliffe keen to state a need for a plant-based diet to help reduce emissions.

The general election will take place on July 4.