PROPERTY owners who pull down buildings and leave craters in the centre of Dubbo for years and years would face fines under a solution offered by an expert in urban planning.
The regulation to deter the spread of "bombsites" was one of a suite of measures proposed to keep the central business district (CBD) commercially viable.
The issue has significance in a city which has a number of vacant shops and blocks of land on the market and a new planning document that places fewer limits on retail activity outside the CBD.
In recent months candidates who stood for election to Dubbo City Council - both successfully or otherwise - have proposed ways to bring more people downtown. Last year Talbragar Street shopkeepers banded together to put on a promotional fair.
Dr Matthew Burke from Griffith University's Urban Research Program said it was one of the great conundrums of his field - how to revitalize main streets to attract people and build a precinct that "really buzzed".
While some had looked for "silver bullets" in pedestrian malls or "you-beaut public transport systems", the academic who once worked at the rural city of Wangaratta argued it was all about land use.
"Once you get your land use wrong it's hard to regravitate to the centre of town," he said.
The Queensland-based expert, who had stayed at Dubbo and visited its famous zoo in the past, generally advised authorities to cap growth of out-of-centre retail developments.
Dubbo's 2011 local environmental plan (LEP) did the opposite, but Dr Burke added other food for thought.
"Smaller towns can end up with (so-called) bombsites when a building is pulled down and not rebuilt for 10 years," Dr Burke said.
"That's not the best outcome.
"You need to put in demolition controls, so that landowners replace the structure within, say two years, or face punitive measures."
An area of prime retail land almost the size of a rugby league field went unused for more than a decade in Macquarie Street after the John Oxley Motel ceased operation.
It remains undeveloped as yet but last year became part of the Kosseris family's $53 million Riviera Shopping Centre project, which gained council approval in August.