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Sheppard Robson is set to go through a major board-level shake-up over the next two months, the AJ has learned.

In a surprise decision, the practice's three most senior directors have agreed to take early retirement and hand control of the firm over to two of the firm's youngest partners.

Tim Evans, the creative director, and Malcolm McGowan will take over the reins as leading principals. Five of the other current partners will have a smaller equity share in the business.

Senior directors Graham Francis, Paul Watkins and Anthony Furlong have agreed to step down on 1 May.

These three are the longest-standing partners at the practice, which has a staff of 300 and came eighth in last year's AJ100. All three have been offered and have agreed to accept consultant roles, that are understood to last for 12 months.

Evans claimed the change of leadership will see a shift in the focus of the practice on to design standards.

He also said the new leadership would continue the recent strategy of diversifying the workload away from just commercial developments and into the public and residential sectors.

Evans said: 'What we now have in place is that the three remaining partners of the company's third-generation are stepping down.

'We want to relaunch this business. We are getting rid of the post of chairman because we don't feel its valid for the way we want to take the practice, and it does not reflect what is happening in architecture at the moment.

'We want to further develop a culture of design integrity at the office. We want to take the practice back to its origins, when design was very important.' Evans said that he would take over the creative direction of the practice's output, while McGowan would be responsible for the management of the office and delivery of projects.

'We are pleased with the [consultant] deal that we have done with the partners that are leaving, because they provide a great deal to the practice, but it will be for a limited period of time, ' Evans said.

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