The former Memorial Hospital built in homage to the fallen of the Great War is to be largely demolished and re-built, despite a promise it would be protected.
The hospital, which opened in 1928 thanks to public funds, is to form part of a new 630-place primary school at the former Peterborough District Hospital site in Thorpe Road.
The administrative core of the memorial hospital was meant to remain untouched as part of an outline planning application agreed last July.
But a detailed application passed by city councillors on Tuesday means only the façade remains as it is now.
Local historians have always opposed any suggestion the memorial hospital building be demolished because of its emotional and historical importance.
Peter Lee, of the Peterborough Civic Society, called the change disappointing, but said there would be no issue if the core was re-built close to how it looks now.
However, he warned: “Disappointment would become anger if we lost that façade.”
A report by city council planning officers said detailed design proposals showed the existing hospital roof needed to be replaced. The report added that because the building’s use had changed, the issue of ‘disproportionate collapse’ needed to be addressed.
Applicants Kier Construction Limited and the council say rebuilding the core would allow it to meet modern building standards.
Works on the new school should start in the next month so it can open for September 2016. The school will replace West Town Primary Academy.
The council is providing £500,000 of funding for the school, while the government is providing £6 million. A council spokesman said: “The change to retain the front façade and reconstruct the rest of the structure does not significantly change the cost of the new school building.”
Addressing the committee on Tuesday, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said: “On balance, what we are proposing will keep the important façade and protect the heritage. I think it’s the right decision.”
Objector Dan Windwood said: “It’s not just a memorial but a living building for those who survived the war.”
Cllr David Harrington said it was a difficult decision, but added: “I’m sure every soldier who gave their lives would like to see children going through the doors.” Cllr Peter Hiller said changes have been made to the building in the past.
Peterborough District Hospital closed in 2010, with services moving to Peterborough City Hospital. The site was sold in 2013 to Lands Improvement Holdings for £7.75 million. There will also be 350 homes built on the site.