STAFF and residents of three care homes in Christchurch are among thousands of people unsure about their future after Southern Cross announced plans to shut down.

The cash-strapped operator, which has 752 homes and 31,000 residents, is to close after landlords refused to restructure rental agreements.

The group has three homes in Christchurch - Bramblegate and Principle House, both in Ringwood Road, Walkford as well as Touchwood in Somerset Road, Christchurch.

All of Southern Cross’ Christchurch homes offer specialist care, including care for those with learning difficulties.

Bramblegate offers residential care for young people with physical and learning disabilities as well as respite care to give home carers a break.

Nobody at any of the Christchurch homes was available for comment yesterday.

Landlords of 250 homes have agreed to take them back and run them themselves.

However, negotiations are still ongoing with the owners of the other 502, a process that could take three to four months, it is understood.

The GMB union claim 336 care homes due to be taken back are owned by companies outside the UK, with 325 of them registered in tax havens.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “Southern Cross may be on its last legs but for Southern Cross’ 31,000 residents and 43,000 staff this looks like a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’.

“These 80 landlords are a rag-bag bunch whose number includes overseas interests, tax dodgers and, in some cases, ‘identity still unknown’.”

Southern Cross chief executive Jamie Buchan is to lead the restructuring and said he will work closely with all interested parties to ensure “that the welfare of residents and staff is maintained”.

Shares were suspended yesterday and the company said there would be nothing left for investors once the restructuring is completed.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “On the issue of Southern Cross, we have said all along that no-one will be left homeless as a result of this.

“Local authorities have a duty to ensure that people get appropriate care.

“There are currently around 50,000 spaces available across the country so there should be no reason why anyone will be out on the street.”