My personal take for what it might be worth on East Coker: once a village, it's now virtually a suburb of nearby Yeovil - there are any amount of far more typical and more rural Wessex villages around and as such it is unremarkable. However, Eliot's treatment of the specific place can't be ignored, and, like the Adelstrop railway station (or Carnforth rail station clock) it cries out for preservation for the sake of our national heritage. The plans to subsume it all further into Yeovil are therefore crass.
Eliot embodied East Coker masterfully and concisely with the very spirit of Wessex, so at length depicted by Thos Hardy, and in a sense the place is symbolic of that greater, rural, Wessex as opposed to much else on its own, save that we wouldn't be wanting to develop Dove Cottage into holiday lets and a great big parking lot, would we??
Finally, and controversially, I'd observe that Hardy understood Wessex and so did Eliot but it's (culturally) a closed book to many American commentators, perhaps because they lack the necessary collective consciousness of a native.
-controversial stuff, maybe, but I do tend to believe in it.