Since the last quorate meeting of the Commissioners in 1949, and the last recorded meeting of the Management Committee in 1952, there had been no effective legal control over the Navigation, to the detriment of the locks, bridges and other navigation works. The bridges at Hempholme and Brigham rapidly deteriorated and were in considerable danger of collapse if used by heavy traffic. As these bridges are essential to the livelihood of the landowners living on the west side of the Navigation, it became essential that effective control over the Navigation was reinstated.

One early possibility of resolving the problem appeared to be a further Act of Parliament. The IWA took Counsels Opinion in 1972 and gained some very useful advice. The Counsel referred to the case of the River Ancholme Drainage Trustees who, in 1921, through lack of numbers, failed to prevent the deterioration of the drainage system. To avert complete disaster the Charity Commissioners appointed additional Trustees. It was suggested that there was a close similarity between the two cases and as such it could be reasonably conceived that the Navigation Commissioners appointed under the 1767 Act were Trustees holding the Navigation under Public Charitable Trust. Under the terms of the 1960 Charities Act it was possible that the Charity Commissioners might feel able to make a vesting order without reference to court. In a later opinion, Counsel suggested that this process could best be developed in two stages. Initially for the Navigation to be registered as a charity, and for the Charity Commissioners to appoint Trustees to protect the assets of the Navigation. Then for the duly appointed Trustees to consider what further action was required. Counsel saw no formal requirements for the full 98 Trustees to be appointed and suggested that a group of about 20 should suffice.

The Driffield Navigation Amenities Association took action on this advice and, after considerable discussion and correspondence, gained agreement of the Treasury Solicitor that he should register the Navigation as a charitable trust. Mr R K Price, the Treasury Solicitor, registered the Driffield Navigation as a Charity on 17th July 1974 (No. 503430) and the Charity Commissioners then started the task of creating the initial body of Trustees. The Driffield Navigation Amenities Association were called upon to suggest the names of suitable persons.