Struggling high street shops must move with the times or face a bleak future, according to the leader of the council.

Ahead of a debate on small retailers and their fight to survive, Cllr Chris Whitbread has spoken out about the future of high street shopping in Epping Forest.

He said: “The way we use our high streets is changing and businesses need to change with us.

“Out-of-town retail and online shopping have revolutionised the way we use our high streets. For some businesses, that means our online presence is now just as important as our shop fronts.”

Cllr Whitbread, who runs a letting agents in Epping, believes there is still a market for retail in the high street.

He said: “Many people believe bars, restaurants and coffee shops are becoming some of the new High Street Kings.

“It is then up to the rest of us to make the best offer we can to deliver the full modern high street experience.”

Cllr Whitbread will take the stage on Monday at Sadlers Wells theatre in Clerkenwell alongside Bill Grimsey, author of the controversial Grimsey Report, and government minister Brandon Lewis MP.