Antony Townsend, chief executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority since its inception, is to step down later this year.

In a statement this afternoon, Townsend (pictured) described the pace of change at the regulator as ‘relentless’ and the challenges he has faced as ‘formidable’.

He added: ‘The SRA now has a firm basis upon which to develop and mature its new approach to regulation. I have concluded that after seven years it is a good time for me to move on, so I will leave once my successor has been appointed.

‘I want to pay particular thanks to my exceptional colleagues, who have worked tirelessly in often difficult circumstances, and to the present and past board members who have been an invaluable source of support.’

Charles Plant, chair of the board, added: ‘Antony inherited a regulatory organisation and regime in serious need of reform. Much has been achieved by the SRA under Antony's leadership over the past seven years.

‘The SRA's transformation process must continue with particular emphasis on operational delivery now that the new regulatory framework is substantially in place. The next stage in the SRA's development will be equally demanding over a further protracted period of time, and Antony and I have agreed that now is an appropriate time to effect a change.

‘The board places on record its considerable gratitude to Antony for the dedication and skill with which he has led the SRA in challenging times, and for the success which has been achieved.’

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society, said: ‘Antony Townsend has been with the SRA from the start, and has worked tirelessly and selflessly to create a modern regulator for solicitors.

‘He can take credit for many developments at the SRA and never wavered from his robust commitment to establishing it as a public interest regulator. We wish him well in his future career.’

Townsend took up the post in 2006. He was chief executive of the General Dental Council from 2001 and previously held senior roles at the General Medical Council, including director of standards and education, and head of conduct.