CONSENSUS Capital Property has agreed its first deal in England to turn a vacant office block into housing.

The Edinburgh business, founded by Mark Emlick, is converting a former HMRC site in Ashford, Kent, into 25 affordable flats with the properties to be taken on by Moat Housing Association (MHA) on completion.

Consensus Capital Group, which Mr Emlick is chairman of, opened a London office in September last year.

Mr Emlick, who was banned from entering Dunfermline for a period this year following a court hearing, said the Kent project was the first completed by the property arm since more relaxed planning rules, known as permitted development rights, were brought in across England and Wales 10 months ago.

Work on the development, which is likely to cost around £3 million, in Kent is expected to start soon with the construction phase lasting around six months.

Mr Emlick said the business has already identified two other projects in the county.

He said: "The HMRC building in Ashford has been lying vacant for a number of years, so this deal is an opportunity to breathe new life into the property as well as bringing additional affordable housing stock into the area.

"This is the start of a number of projects we intend doing in Kent with housing associations, primarily with Moat.

"We have got a number of opportunities to develop sites in the Kent area. We have already earmarked two more potential developments to build another 80 apartments."

Mr Emlick would like to see the Scottish government bring in similar planning changes to allow commercial buildings to be converted for residential use.

He pointed out the Ashford scheme took six weeks to receive planning consent and said: "It is getting much needed housing into the sector in England far quicker than in Scotland."

At the moment MHA controls more than 20,000 properties in the south of England.

Terry Phillips, business development manager at Moat Housing Association, said: "Like many parts of the UK, Kent urgently needs new, modern housing stock, and it's part of our ongoing challenge to find new ways of doing this quickly and cost-effectively."

Last year Consensus Capital Property launched a £50m fund which it planned to invest in social housing with an 18-apartment site in Perth the first to be completed.

In February Mr Emlick was banned from entering the town of Dunfermline while awaiting trial in relation to allegations of threatening or abusive behaviour towards a woman.

He has denied the charges brought against him with further proceedings scheduled to call in May.