Seismic Testing is Happening in my Area – What Should I Do?

Ellesmere Port residents discover “vibroseis” Thumper Trucks on their roads (Click To Enlarge)

With shale and coal formations under large areas of the UK, fracking companies need to undertake Seismic Surveys to get some idea of where best to drill. If your area has been Licensed for fracking a Seismic Survey and approaches to landowners for site acquisition are likely to follow.

The basic principle of the seismic survey is to create sound waves at the surface which travel down into the ground and reflect back revealing the rock formations beneath. In practice this means covering huge urban and rural areas with arrays of detectors connected by miles of cabling. In vehicle accessible areas (on or near roads) “thumper” trucks are used to create the vibrations, in non-accessible areas explosive charges buried in holes are used.Process

Seismic surveys are by their very nature highly intrusive, requiring access to large areas of land, for which the companies do not want go to the trouble and cost of obtaining individual access rights. There is no specific legislation for Seismic Surveys, so companies exploit permitted development rights (p2) and scant good practice guidance (p9). They merely notify the council and highways department and assume blanket permission, only negotiating specific access with larger landowners. The seismic survey carried out by Cuadrilla in Lancashire between April and June 2012 is a typical example. Many residents complained of contractors trespassing on their gardens and fields to lay cabling, or even to plant explosive charges. Read more about Seismic Surveys…

If your area is threatened by a Seismic Survey it is important to take swift and decisive action:


Forming a group and networking with other people to share information about the Seismic Survey plans in your areas is essential. Read more…

If you get organised quickly it may be possible to put enough pressure on the council to require full planning permission but this has to happen within 28 days of notification by the company. The council can also require a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) to be carried out, adding cost for the company but again only with lots of local awareness and visible pressure applied. Given that the survey involves more than just conventional use of the roads and will include blocking it for periods with trucks, laying cables down the side of roads and bashing up the surface with thumper trucks, targeting the councils highways department could also create delays or stop the survey.


A conspicuous campaign across the survey area to inform residents of their rights to refuse access is a great first step. Setting up a helpline and tapping into informal networks (chatting in the pub) may allow you to identify, inform and support landowners that have been approached by the survey company. It may also reveal approaches by land agents and companies looking for test sites.

The whole surveying process is extremely vulnerable to concerted local resistance and is the first opportunity a community has to resist. Companies need unfettered access to land across the whole survey area and an informed and organised community is in a very good position to deny this. By banding together and refusing access to lots of properties the cost of the survey can be greatly increased. This happened when Chester Zoo and local farmers refused permission for seismic testing on their land in June 2015. By standing together and supporting landowners to refuse access the community can force fracking companies to change their plans, reduce the survey area or delay/abandon the survey completely.

If the company persists they will need to apply to the Secretary of State for “Ancillary Access Rights”. FOI requests by community groups have revealed that Aurora Energy Resources have embarked upon this route at Formby W.Lancs. This “access without permission of the landowner” may allow the survey to progress but is a potential PR disaster for fracking companies if a conspicuous and visible community campaign is waged.

After Ripping Up Seismic Survey Cables People Drag Them Into The Transylvanian Village Of Mosna In Romania In November 2013 (Click To Enlarge)


If the survey company starts work, a range of strategies and tactics can be employed to disrupt the work. It is also important to record all damage and take pictures of the disruption caused by vehicles, cables and contractors. You may be able to stop or slow the survey and getting pictures of the process will certainly raise awareness about the imminent threat of fracking in your area.


Use these Seismic Survey Flyers for raising awareness about the threat posed by seismic surveys in your area. There is also a useful Seismic Spotter Sheet that highlights the signs and activity that indicate that a survey may be carried out in your area. If you would like an editable version or a different size please get in touch:

An organised community is THE best defence against the Fracking industry. Get our step-by-step guides and start planning an effective Anti-Fracking campaign where you live here…

The most significant factor in what happens next is building a community response in this area. If we can be of any assistance please email or call 07858 614861.